Shortly before the 2021 Budget was announced, we had the opportunity to remind Parliament not to overlook the embattled hospitality industry in our presentation to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee.
Grassroots hospitality is just coming to grips with the real cost 2020 had on their businesses. CEO, Marisa Bidois, flanked by some of our member from across the country, outlaid the true cost of last year’s response to COVID-19.
Our presentation to the government Select Committee followed on from last year’s Dine out to Help out petition, in which we called for targeted support for our sector. Because we are now able to quantify the burden of overdue rent, the true cost of urgent bank loans, and the severe staffing needs, our members are pleading for Parliamentarians not to forget them.
Frank Hsu, of Franks in Wellington said the lack of tourism is still hurting the sector.
“Any kind of target stimulus provides immediate incentive for people to be out and about, to spend money and have memorable, positive experiences,” he said.
It’s far more sombre for Helen Kono of Yoshi Sushi, who had to shut down one of her venues due to COVID-19 and lay off seven staff.
“Most hospitality businesses start with debt regardless, which is paid down from day one. However, many in the sector are just like us, paying off ‘COVID-debt’. After 10 and a half years we had no other choice than to make the heart-wrenching decision to shut down our Featherston Street store.”
Up in Auckland, Harriet Byrnes of Vic Road Kitchen says negotiating her way through the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the toughest things her family has ever had to do.
“Not only did I have to figure out how to keep my businesses open, but I was providing support to my staff, many of whom were here from overseas. They too were under extreme hardship: unable to pay their rent, their mortgage, nor support their families. Targeted support, in any capacity, will help keep this sector alive,” Ms Byrnes says.
Jamie Williams from Wellington hospitality group, Kapura says targeted stimulus for hospitality would be a much needed boost for an industry that has carried significant burden through the roll out of the Alert Levels.
“It is not too late for the Government to right the wrongs of the lack of support they have exercised on hospitality. You have a sector that gives so much to the economy, we have a high multiplier value to the economy and employ vulnerable cohorts, playing a key role as a transition employer.” Mr Williams explained.
We are calling on Parliament to support a targeted support package that includes a subsidised dining out scheme, a dedicated Minister, better immigration policy as well as investment in training and development to create future pathways into our hospitality industry.
Sadly, our industry’s strong growth story has been decimated by COVID-19, leading us to a list of priorities to best support the recovery of our sector and ensure government policy matches the realities of everyday hospitality operations.
While the tourism industry has received dedicated relief budgets, our industry has received no targeted subsidies despite being a core component of the tourist experience.
We are seeing the long-tail impact that COVID-19 continues to have on New Zealand’s hospitality sector, so we are asking Parliament to give our sector the manaaki that we are so good at serving up to everyone else.
Read more about our presentation in the following Stuff article: Hurting restaurant trade pleads case for dining vouchers.