looking back: tourism sours, labour falls flat

OPINION EDITORIAL Interesting reading in recent statistics suggesting fat profits have been made during recent boom years in tourism. Looking back, it now seems extraordinary our tourism industry could nearly double in five years to current arrivals around 85,000. Labour figures in one tourism sector, accommodation, however show flat levels of employment. Even now, accommodation workers do not number much more than 500. Each tourist represents, say, $1,000 to the local economy. Hopefully more! Whatever the true figure, there was about half as many tourists less than a decade ago. Now there might be $85 million in the local tourism pool. Minimum wage is still $4 an hour. Most workers do not get more than $6 to $7 an hour. One rumour has it that draft legislation has been in place for several years to raise minimum wages to $7 an hour. Cabinet has approved it. Caucus of every coalition shade and hue has approved it. But, so the rumour goes, the Chamber of Commerce opposes it. "Them or the cartel," says our source, nodding sagely. To some, big business is the same thing as corruption and corporate self-interest. Others claim myriad good intentions - but even tourism boosters admit clear leadership is lacking. One thing is clear. As an industry, tourism is failing badly at providing quality employment to Maori Cook Islanders. Years of complaints among papa'a investors about Maori Cook Islanders being "dumb" and/or "lazy" continue to this day, begging the question: why? Tourism operators need to start asking the hard questions in public. And prepare themselves for the hard answers.


Anonymous said...

The problem with our tourism is obvious - the tourists that are coming in are for the most part penny pinching backpackers, along with the odd 3 star tourist holidaying under a package deal where everything is taken care of.

I saw some backpackers offering to wash locals cars for a crust. If we had higher quality tourists with more free cash, everyone on Raro would be enjoying the benefits.

If only the Sheraton had been finished - Raro would be full of rich americans tipping everyone left right and centre.