Border changes welcome news for city centre businesses but more immediate help required, including a return of office workers
The news that international tourists can return to the Heart of the City from midnight 12 April is a huge relief - as will be a hopeful move away from all restrictions very soon - but more help is needed for city centre businesses to ensure they can welcome visitors back with open arms.
Tourists have been sorely missed over the last two years – contributing to around 20% of the city centre’s spending prior to the pandemic.
Viv Beck, Chief Executive Heart of the City says that “After two years at the epicentre of the pandemic, it’s exciting that tourists will be back in the city centre soon and that our businesses can hopefully soon trade with no restrictions. There is a lot to offer and some great plans over the coming months to encourage workers to return and people to visit. This is news we have been desperately waiting for as this is now the toughest time of the entire pandemic for many.”
With the benefit of open borders still nearly a month away, and restrictions still in place, the current situation for many businesses is not sustainable. With only six weeks of limited targeted support confirmed, many city centre businesses are saying that it’s simply not enough to get them through.
Beck says “Despite the good news that we will begin to see more customers back over the coming months, the reality is that we have previously highly successful businesses on the brink of closure. Without further and immediate targeted support we run the risk of not having a vibrant central Auckland, just as we want to showcase our city when the border reopens.
Spending results for the week beginning 28 February, were the lowest outside of a lockdown since the pandemic began. The second half of 2021 was down 54% compared with the rest of New Zealand which was up 3% over the same period.
Beck says that “Whilst there is sunlight on the horizon, the city centre has been disproportionality impacted - it will take time for many of our businesses to rebuild and we acknowledge those that have not been able to survive this.”
“We’ve asked Government to put additional support in place including targeted wage subsidies and to move away from restrictions quickly to get our economy moving. This will facilitate a shift back to the office which will have the most immediate impact.”