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Our local tourism sector is incurring various challenges at present with Coronavirus causing many visitors to put their holidays on hold.

This accompanied with the damage to Milford Road and walking tracks in the area means our tourism industry in the south is taking huge hits.

It is evident the number of tourists visiting our area has dropped this summer period.

Some hotels are reporting a 30% drop in numbers for February compared to last year, and others have informed me they have had large cancellations of bookings which were scheduled for the next few months.

Some adventure business operators are reporting a drop of up to 50% in some cases.

The implications in the lack of visitors from China is especially hard-hitting in Queenstown.

Chinese visitors make up over 10% of New Zealand’s visitors, so having minimal visitors arriving from China is having a large impact on our economy.

We’re lucky to have some fantastic tourism providers still attracting other international visitors here.

Destination Queenstown is also doing an incredible job reminding others we are still open for business and especially getting our friends across the ditch here to the south.

It does, however, create a very difficult situation for tourism employers and employees.

Businesses are having to let staff go due to the shortage of tourists, mainly in Milford Sound, but also some in Te Anau and Queenstown.

This is an incredibly stressful and uncertain time for a lot of people in the tourism sector.

I hosted a public meeting on the Milford Road in Te Anau earlier this month to allow people to hear from various stakeholders about how the repairs are progressing.

It’s fantastic to see the convoys operational but we need to do all we can to get the road back open and operating as normal as soon as we can.

It hasn’t been an easy start to the year for the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) either, with the Government passing its tertiary reforms which will have serious implications for us in the deep south.

We’re incredibly lucky to have our Queenstown campus, which offers many courses which are attractive to those in the tourism sector.

However, those wanting to study at the campus and those who work at the campus, and SIT throughout the south now face uncertainty about what next for them.

The Education Minister’s own officials told him these reforms would not work but this has been completely ignored as this Government pushes on with its agenda.

A National Government will return assets to SIT where they are still available and return decision making back to those in the regions who know their people best.

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