Weekend road trips
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is asking people to “experience your own backyard”. She is urging employers to consider four-day work weeks and has said the government is actively considering more public holidays this year so people can travel.
On Friday, Ardern is launching the country’s ski season in the tourist destination of Queenstown, hoping that will give another boost to domestic travel.
Some New Zealanders appear to be heeding her encouragement and taking weekend road trips.
Demand for hotels and short-term rentals, while depressed overall, still ticks up over the weekends according to STR, an analytics firm that looks specifically at the hotel industry.
But tourism business owners say a pot of NZ$400 million ($257 million) set aside by the government to subsidize wages and other costs for the industry will not be enough to tide it over while foreign tourists are still barred.
Foreigners account for around half the NZ$16.1 billion ($10.34 billion) that tourism contributes to GDP in New Zealand, a hole economist Peter Clough says will be difficult to plug with just domestic travelers.
“Whatever we do, we’re not going to fill that hole just by drumming up domestic travel or the Trans-Tasman bubble,” he said, referring to a proposal that was touted last month to allow movement between Australia and New Zealand.
For Douglas, the downturn means digging deep in her own pockets and pivoting as much as possible to attract local travel to her 15,000-hectare (37,000-acre) farm.
“The farming mentality is that you’re not always going to have good seasons,” she said. “Right now, Kiwis are going to be the best gift for us and I’m hoping they will come with their gumboots on.”