Open minds on open border

Directors are urged to capitalise on new opportunities now our borders have reopened to a changed world.

By Institute of Directors
4 Aug 2022
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2 min to read
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This article is a short overview of the 3 August panel event Our borders are open. Now what? The full event is now available  to purchase on-demand.

With our borders open, the opportunities for New Zealand businesses to recover from the pandemic and capitalise on new global demand are enormous, according to an expert panel hosted by the Institute of Directors in Wellington.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) Chief Executive Peter Chrisp MInstD, Education New Zealand (ENZ) Chair Steve Maharey and Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) Chair Gráinne Troute CMInstD, compered by former OECD Board of Business Chair Phil O’Reilly MInstD, addressed the question “Our borders are open. Now what?” in a discussion livestreamed from the National Library.

Representing sectors heavily impacted by the closure of our borders, the panel was overwhelmingly positive about the capacity of New Zealand business to rebuild the strongest international aspects of their pre-covid business models while discovering new opportunities in a world of greatly changed priorities.

NZTE’s Chrisp, who travelled with the Prime Minister on her recent visits to Singapore, Japan, the USA and Australia, says interest in New Zealand businesses is very high.

“Brand New Zealand is really strong out there,” Chrisp says.

“Don’t believe for a minute our Covid-19 management has damaged our international brand. It has not. If anything, it showed we have a strong care for the sanctity of life here. Our national brand sits around our care for people and place over generations.  We are not just a good country, we are good for the world.

“This type of thinking about our country is creating a fantastic halo effect for companies to grow – good-for-New Zealand, good-for-the world companies.”

His optimism was reflected in comments from TIA Chair Troute, who believes her industry – which was almost completely halted while borders were closed – has an immediate opportunity to restart.

New Zealand remains a “bucket-list” destination for many people in our traditional markets so the major challenges for the industry are internal – capacity, workforce, preparedness – she says.

“The issue within tourism is not demand. The demand will continue to be there and to exceed our capacity, really,” Troute says.

Tourism operators should look to support international travellers who want to reduce the carbon footprint of their travel and to encourage them to spend more time here when they do visit, she says.

“When a visitor arrives in New Zealand, how do we provide opportunities for a visitor to reduce their carbon footprint or to even have a positive impact while they are here? Over time, that has to be a part of how a visit to New Zealand is perceived internationally.

“And there is a synergy that we haven’t fully harvested between tourism and food and beverage. If you look at countries with a longer experience of this, say France, you travel around to different areas because you want to try the wine and food in those different areas.”

Regional tourism organisations are increasingly supporting this approach, and there are other from opportunities that could also be developed – from birdwatching to deeper immersion in te ao Māori – that would be of great interest in the global market, Troute says.

For the education sector, the task of rebuilding will be complicated by bureaucratic hurdles to travel and the dramatic collapse of what was a $5.2-billion industry, warns ENZ Chair Maharey. But growing demand for education globally means a recovered industry could exceed its previous size within a few years, he says.

Maharey says the education sector has huge opportunities, including rebuilding our foreign student population, maintaining the offshore student market that has developed during the pandemic and developing our local educational publishing and technology sector to better serve the growing global market.

“We need to have a system to bring students into the country in volumes that mean the industry becomes and industry again,” he says. “The opportunities are huge.”

New Zealand’s border restrictions were ranked as one of the top three impediments to national economic performance by directors in our 2021 Director Sentiment Survey.