The tourism industry is poised to pull New Zealand through the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic but it needs more people, an entrepreneur says.
Speaking at the Otago Tourism Policy School recently, Jucy Co-Founder and LyLo Managing Director Tim Alpe says he is excited about where the industry is at and believes tourism will play a major role in the country’s COVID recovery.
“I know there is discussion around revisiting and rethinking tourism with a focus on the higher spend market, however right now our focus must be on encouraging anyone who is keen to come to New Zealand,” Mr Alpe says.
“The people who come and stay with us are also the people who are serving you in the cafés, retail shops and bars.”
Jucy is a campervan and car rental brand and LyLo is an accommodation provider. While Mr Alpe believes the Aotearoa tourism industry is in a good place, he expects there will be significant challenges with aging products, as a result of no capital investment during the pandemic and staff shortages.
Many staff left the tourism industry during the pandemic and have not returned, which means customers may not get the experiences they were expecting.
While New Zealand was a “forgivable brand” and people would understand the country has “been through hell” with border closures, it can only be forgivable for so long, Mr Alpe says.
“We’ve got to deliver on what we say and that will only happen by having passionate customer focused people delivering an incredible experience.
“We really need to encourage people back into tourism and then that will set us up really well for success.”
He urged business owners and tourism operators not to get caught up in overpricing to recoup losses from COVID.
“While we could easily be charging guests three times our pre-COVID prices for PODS at LyLo, we made a decision not to as it was more important to us that guests felt like they had value for money.
“Everyone needs to recover, but it’s important that we take a long-term view.
“The last thing we need is visitors going home and telling others that they loved New Zealand but ‘man, it was overpriced’.”
Mr Alpe also talked about the successes and tough times he faced after stepping away from Jucy a few years ago, after 20 years at the helm.
He founded the company with his brother, Dan, in 2002 with 25 cars they bought from the Auckland Hospital board.
Seventeen years later, the company had experienced huge growth but things came crashing down during the pandemic.
After leaving, Mr Alpe struggled with his mental health which led him to seek professional help, which he credits with him getting his mojo back.
While the last few years had been a “journey” he believes he is a better person and businessman as a result.
During the presentation he shared some of the many lessons he has learned: culture is everything, especially during the tough times; growth is exciting, challenging and rewarding but bigger isn’t always better; and finally, don’t dwell on the past as you can’t change it.
The fifth annual University of Otago Tourism Policy School is a two-day event bringing together industry leaders, policy makers and prominent researchers to discuss key challenges in the New Zealand tourism industry.
This year’s theme is ‘Tourism Policy: Are we fit for purpose?’.