TIA has urged Auckland Council not to reimpose its targeted rate scheme after the pandemic eases.

Auckland’s highly controversial and long-running targeted rate saga is back in the spotlight, with Tourism Industry Aotearoa reigniting calls for permanent cancellation of the proposal as a measure to reinvigorate the city’s tourism sector.

The call formed part of the organisation’s submission in Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget 2020/21, which will not include funds generated by the rate following the decision earlier this year to temporarily suspend the targeted rate system during the COVID-19 pandemic until 31 March 2021.

In its submission, TIA said it was advocating for the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate (APTR) to not be reinstated in any form due to the pandemic’s effect on hotel revenues, which it said had declined by NZD$75 million year-on-year over the three month period from March to May 2020 inclusive. Occupancies were down 43.7% over the same period, saved only by the use of hotels for quarantining returning travellers as part of New Zealand’s government-imposed lockdowns.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa CE, Chris Roberts.

Labelling the effect of the pandemic on tourism as “catastrophic”, Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO, Chris Roberts, said Auckland Council’s attempts to revise the APTR to include short-term rentals had been a failure, with only 29% of city properties believed to be listed on booking websites actually submitting to council efforts to pay the levy.

“The benefits of tourism are spread across the entire Auckland economy,” Roberts said.

“More than ever, it’s important councils do not impose unreasonable costs on businesses, so that they have the best chance of surviving.

“We need our hoteliers and accommodation providers, who are essential to the tourism industry and to the economy, to be part of the important conversations we’ll be having as we begin to rebuild in a post-COVID-19 world.”

The TIA Chief said the APTR was inflexible and not the appropriate funding tool for Auckland Council was demonstrably unfair as a burden being imposed solely on the accommodation sector.

“Now is an opportune time to remove the APTR permanently,” TIA’s submission concluded.