"Now is a great opportunity to explore your own backyard and get into it, without the crowds"
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My family bought Beachcomber Cruises in 2006. We provide water transport for people living, working and holidaying in the Queen Charlotte Sound as well as sightseeing cruises for tourists.
Pre-Covid business was on an uphill trajectory, we were at the top of our game, having the best summer ever, with full boats everyday and about to start building a new launch.
When lockdown hit, business did a nose dive and instead of taking bookings we were taking cancellations and handing out refunds to everyone who had booked holidays and could no longer come.
We basically had two days to figure out how we were going to keep servicing our customers and move our entire waterfront office to our homes.
We continued to provide essential services, like delivering mail and groceries to residents in the Queen Charlotte Sound, three days a week.
But with eight vessels usually sailing seven days a week, we took a huge hit. Our two largest vessels which seat 250 people between them were tied up before lockdown and haven’t sailed since.
Reverting back to level two was another blow, but at least this time we were putting people’s bookings on hold rather than cancelling them altogether - people do want to come, it’s all dependent on keeping Covid at bay.
There has been some Government Covid relief for tourism businesses and support from the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce to help us figure out how to navigate through this extremely rough patch.
We’re taking things day by day at the moment. There are about 150,000 international tourists in New Zealand, who still want to make the most of their time here.
Domestic tourism is looking good, but Kiwis generally tend not to book in advance - often they’ll wait to get to their destination before looking around for things to do.
With no forward bookings, we don’t know what this summer will hold, which makes it difficult to plan in terms of staff and business in general.
Travel agents have had to pivot their businesses, and are now offering domestic tour packages, including a self-drive tour with accommodation included.
We’ve been re-jigging our products for the domestic market and offering cruises to historic Ship Cove and Endeavour Inlet where people can check out the history and the way people live in the sounds today, walk along the Queen Charlotte Track and see dolphins, birds and seals.
Our message to Marlburians is a reminder that we really do live in a unique and beautiful place - it’s easy to overlook all the amazing things there are to see and do on our doorstep when we live here and are used to travelling away for holiday experiences.