The Government’s rush to introduce emissions trading will sink “coal-face” tourism businesses, the tourism operators’ association says.
In a submission to Parliament’s select committee considering the Emissions Trading Bill, the Tourism Industry Association says small operators will fail under the burden of increased energy costs associated with proposed carbon trading.
Chief executive Fiona Luhrs said financial yields in the accommodation sector could drop by up to 14 per cent. “This is in a sector that is already characterised by low margins.”
At the launch of the Tourism Strategy 2015 last year, Ms Luhrs admitted businesses would have to change their practices and absorb costs, and inevitably some would fail.
But the submission complains that financial support promises surrounding the strategy have never materialised, there was no consultation, and businesses have no incentives to go green.
“At the moment, I’d think very carefully if I was looking to get carbon-zero-certified, because I’m about to pay for the electricity companies to go carbon-zero,” Ms Luhrs said. “How many costs are operators expected to manage in their small, less than five staff, owner-operated businesses?”
She said the costs were inevitable but she wanted emissions trading put off, at least till Australia had adopted a similar scheme, so New Zealand tourism operators could stay competitive.
Operators often had to commit to pricing three years ahead and could not just put up prices to absorb costs. “People don’t appreciate how competitive tourism is; we’re about protecting our market share.”
Business Council for Sustainable Development chief executive Peter Neilson said tourism businesses did not have a choice and the longer the industry waited, the more it risked being seen as hypocritical.
“We cannot afford not to be seen to be doing as much as we can. A comprehensive [emissions trading] scheme is part of that.”
Businesses and tourism marketers risked being accused of “greenwash” if they talked the talk but did not follow through. “If you want the [sustainability] branding, you have to do the hard yards.”
He said research showed a quarter of British consumers would switch products or destinations on sustainability grounds.