Tourism is booming in Wairarapa, but hospitality workers are feeling the pressure. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa’s tourism industry is performing “exceptionally well”, but hospitality workers are bearing the brunt of the boom.

At Wednesday’s Carterton District Council meeting, Destination Wairarapa general manager Anna Neilson said hospitality workers were “struggling” and reaching burnout as they continued to “make hay while the sun shines”.

When borders closed in March 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic, it was “pretty dire” for the industry, Neilson said.

Since then, businesses had been working hard to make money and be open and available whenever they could.

“Wairarapa is still performing exceptionally well,” she said.

“That’s wonderful, but I do worry about the wellness of our industry … they haven’t had a break because of the success.”

The industry was also facing workforce shortages.

Destination Wairarapa’s latest report stated that $163 million had been spent in Wairarapa, attributable to tourism, in the year ending June 2022.

Pre-covid, annual spending was $136m in 2019.

Neilson said a region-wide solution was needed to address mental health and burnout issues tourism operators and hospitality workers faced.

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang said there was “no quick fix” but that the Regional Skills Leadership Group was a good avenue to explore a strategy.

He mentioned one of Carterton’s High St cafes had temporarily closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to “take a break” from the demands of the industry.

But councillor Robyn Cherry-Campbell said reducing hours was not always an option for businesses who needed to “make hay while the sun shines”.

Councillor Dale Williams spoke highly of Business Wairarapa and the events it organised.

These events connected business owners so they could discuss employment strategies and techniques to increase resilience and reduce burnout.

Hospitality NZ had expressed concerns for the industry noting there were not enough Kiwis available to work in hospitality or accommodation.

“The bottom line is this: if we don’t get access to more labour, which includes migrants, how are we going to clean beds, or serve and welcome people, or deliver great customer experience, then how are we going to guarantee maanakitanga?” Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said.

“I don’t know one hospitality or accommodation business that can operate at 100 per cent right now due to the labour shortage in New Zealand.

“When operators can’t operate at 100 per cent, this then becomes a shared problem for everyone, it affects operators, consumers, and communities.

“It’s a real problem and it needs a real solution.” — NZLDR

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