Column: Kaikoura urged to plan ahead for the return of the tourists
COLUMN: We have reached the time of year when, under normal circumstances, Kaikoura's tourism industry is experiencing its annual midwinter lull.
This is a winter like no other because, when normally there would be fewer jobs around, one in five Kaikoura residents is working on the reinstatement of State Highway 1.
This is, of course, very positive, with the Kaikoura economy experiencing a much-needed boost from all this extra work and employment.
But when the tourists begin to arrive in September, those people working on the road at very good pay rates will need to be enticed back to return to tourism jobs in what is very likely to be a tight labour market.
Tourism businesses need to be aware of this and plan ahead.
It's realistic that several former tourism workers will not go back to that sector. On the road, they have been receiving some fairly substantial wages and many are upskilling. At the end of all this, when it comes time for those jobs to cease, some may follow the companies they are now employed by.
Some tourism companies have secured their staff by increasing wages, but this is not an option for everyone, and the logical flow-on effect is that charges are passed on to customers.
The other challenge will be accommodating not only our tourists, but seasonal tourism workers. There is less accommodation than normal available in Kaikoura, and naturally what is left is more expensive than what it was: The concern is that pre-earthquake wage rates in the tourism industry won't match those rental prices.
This is a long-term issue that goes beyond just this coming tourism season. Although signs are positive that State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura will be open by Christmas, work on the road will continue for some time after that.
What this means is that former tourism workers will be able to retain employment on the road for longer too, and not be released back to the tourism industry anytime soon.
Kaikoura's industry is not expecting a boom season like that of 2016, but the 2018/19 season could be much larger, and the same labour and accommodation issues will arise then
These issues are not necessarily negative - instead, they arise from the positives of Kaikoura getting back on its feet.
As I said, this is a winter like no other, and the same can be said from the summer that lies ahead. Kaikoura's tourism industry must be aware of the challenges that will be presented, and prepare itself as much as possible.