Comment of the Day: Are we heading for 0% New Zealand?

The opening ceremony of a giant rugby ball for Tourism New Zealand in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, Friday, October 05, 2007. Credit:NZPA / Ross Setford

Sally writes:

South Islanders you are overrun by tourists.

After a few days down there doing all the tourist things I felt like a foreign tourist in my own country.

Really good for the economy but sometimes I wished that there were more NZers employed in the hospitality and tourism trade.

To be asked where do you come from by an American at the reception of a hotel, served by a Chinese girl at a hotel restaurant, or go on a scenic tour with a guide and hardly understand due to their very broad Irish accent, I started to wonder: where are the NZers and why are they not doing these jobs?

If tourism is going to become our biggest earner we need to push training more NZers in the hospitality industry.

These people are the face of NZ so my challenge to NZ businesses in the tourism business start finding ways on how to attract more NZers to help run your business than taking the easier route of employing seasonal foreign workers.

Are we just selling our scenery so tourists feel more comfortable when being shown around by people they identify with?

Is this an opportunity for nice operators to ensure their tourism attraction is 100% authentic?



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  • KGB

    I sometimes wonder what percentage of our 5% unemployed are employable in this industry? A Hotel Receptionist & a Tour Guide probably require skills or experiance but waitresses, waiters, & general hotel cleaning staff do not.
    How many of our unemployed present well enough? Tattoos, piercing, dreadlocks?
    It was an issue in my day of employing restaurant staff, is it a bigger problem today?

    • Aucky

      I disagree KGB. Waitering is very much a skill particularly if we are targeting the upper end of the tourism market. Hotel housekeeping the same – the ability to service a room to pristine levels within a tight time framework is not learned overnight. Personal appearance, cleanliness and the ability to speak coherently to guests is of paramount importance.

      The major hotel chains will train staff to meet their requirements but we appear to be incapable of providing them with the right raw material.

      • KGB

        I agree. By unskilled I simply meant unqualified as in a trade etc.
        The Hotel industry does train, but they must first find the presentable, well spoken, un-scribbled.
        Or as you said “raw material.” :)

        • Aucky

          I thought we might be singing from the same song book.

          • KGB

            When employing kitchen & waiting staff I would sit at the table right at the back. I could usually judge how well they would do by the time they got to me. Body language, presentation, and pace:)

          • Aucky

            A very good friend and an old colleague pre-opened the Beijing Hilton just as China was opening its doors to tourism back in the late 80s. He has many stories to tell of converting the local raw material into hospo staff befitting of what was then the only five star hotel in Beijing.

            Isn’t it ironic that we find ourselves in the same position today finding and training our locals to sufficient standard to meet the needs of our Chinese guests?

          • Dave

            Except….. (he says cheekily) The local Chinese workers may have been unskilled, and not used to pleasing guests, however, they must have WANTED to work very much, whereas, a lot of the local “product” is all too aware, they don’t have to work, their parents have informed them of their rights, the benefits available, and to tell others to naff off. They also know they can get a benefit if the work is too hard. I fear we have a generation with a very high proportion of very unemployable young people.

    • Davo42

      Don’t confuse skill with work ethic.

    • Dave

      In terms of SKILL, I offer the Novatel Tainui in Hamilton. We have stayed there several times, and whilst their staff are SKILLED, they (mostly) don’t exhibit the needed enthusiasm or drive to make a guests stay a pleasure. They seem to lack the drive, and initiative to go beyond the frozen attempt at a greeting, or similar things. Too many of the workers at the Novotel Tainui are local Maori from the unemployment lines, or from the Waikato Maori uni studying hospitality..

      Too many young kiwis are NOT suited to working, let alone working in hospitality, and doing whatever is needed to make a guests stay a pleasure, including the local attractions, simple directions, and the like.

      NB: As an example, Once when we got there reception was empty, no one around at all, so a quick walk revealed the receptionists and bar staff were all chatting and smoking outside, yes, ALL of them. This is not representative with all Kiwis, but an example of FORCING people to move beyond what they want to achieve, in search of just a job.

      • KGB

        Perhaps we need to introduce tipping to ensure good service in our tourism industry?
        I don’t like tipping, I see it as subsidising employers. However, most service in the USA is great!
        I wonder how that would go down with the Unions? Minimum wage $6.25 plus tips ?

        • Dave

          I agree, I’m not keen, the restaurant would need to show reduced rates as lower wages, and can guests tip the waiting staff accordingly, if they feel they earn’t it. One difficulty, is what about all the other staff, will the cleaning staff feel left out, the chefs, or do you pay them ALL 33% of current rates and they all share the tips?

        • Keanne Lawrence

          It is already being done and has for a very long-time. One place it has been common practice is for tour bus operators. A Route Supervisor neighbour never minded filling in to do a tour even bringing them home for a genuine bit of Kiwi smoko. Another income supplement with $5 per head for him at a cost of about $2 a head.
          It is normal for tourists to give the driver an envelope as the depart the bus at the end of the tour. The better the ride the better the gratuity. Only exceptions were mostly Kiwi’s travelling a bit wider. “Long pockets and short arms” he would say.

        • pisces8284 .

          Then it will be like other countries where you don’t tip for good service, just because it is expected

        • island time

          Some parts of the world have a service charge which gets distributed to all staff in a hotel. tips also occur. It depends on the hotel/resort. i know of a luxury resort that has maybe 300 staff and one particular guest/family dropped a mere US$100k tip – they also happened to be majority shareholders and this is not a common happening. These are resorts where you are paying US$2000 a night to stay, where service is valued and essential. never underestimate the line staff – housekeepers have many interactions with guests and are very important to the success of the business – if you employ unskilled people you deliver poor service and get poor returns

    • pisces8284 .

      I beg to differ, wait staff definitely need training. The local licensing trust used to run a hospitality course for its staff and it is sorely missed. Being asked ‘are youse ready to order?’ and my pet hate – plates removed before everyone has finished.

  • The Needler

    I think we will need some more Chinese interpreters.

    • Aucky

      I don’t believe that will be a problem. Many Auckland primary schools are now teaching Mandarin as a part of their curriculum and of course there are many families who speak Mandarin as a primary or secondary language in the home.

      • biscuit barrel

        Exactly when we have 60,000 people who were born in India, and 80,000 who were born in China, plenty of ‘Kiwis’ are know the lingo and can cook the cuisine. Then you add up those born here to parents from overseas who would still have good skills there.

      • Observer

        Hopefully this doesn’t jeapardise assimilation or the need for those coming from China to learn English.

  • Goldie

    I guess it’s possible that some of the people Sally mentions may be NZ citizens, it would be interesting to know the stats across the industry. But it is also an industry that attracts the younger foreign visitors – short term jobs that help fund their next venture, in the same way that a lot of our young people do when they go on their OE

    • Aucky

      I totally agree Goldie. There are a ton of seasonal hospo jobs for keen young foreign backpackers but we must develop a strong cadre of Kiwi workers who take a personal pride in serving the needs of our foreign guests. Waiting tables and housekeeping rooms is a time honoured profession.

      • Goldie

        I know here in Wellington for instance, I wouldn’t say we were being overrun by foreigners in the industry. But I daresay the more touristy areas attract more of the foreign workers.

  • Steve kay

    As an employer in Queenstown, I’d dearly love to employ all kiwis, as would others. They are simply not here, and if they don’t get snapped up then they’re certainly not here to work, rather focusing on snowboarding and much merriment. It is a difficult environment to find good staff at the best of times.

    • Goldie

      I would surmise Queenstown is not a place the average kiwi would consider moving to specifically to work. I’ve heard living and accommodation costs are quite high? (Correct me if i’m wrong)

      • Steve kay

        My now wife and I moved here ten years ago with nothing but the vehicle we were driving. We made good decisions and a bunch of sacrifices and now we get to raise our kids in a relative crime free paradise. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but most good things are worth the effort.

        There is no free lunch here, Queenstown will however, reward the productive.

  • Ben

    There are fortunately many beautiful places in new Zealand that have not been overrun by tourists especially if one steers clear of Rotorua Queenstown and Te Anau

  • MrsAverage

    Having been employed in a large hotel in a tourist town in my youth (not that long ago) I can tell you why. Management was disorganised, there was an underlying feeling that we were a dime a dozen and should be grateful to live and work in a beautiful location, hours were long and pay was low. I started the season excited and motivated about providing first class hospitality (and practising my basic Japanese), and finished the season vowing never to go back. This feeling wasn’t limited to the staff at ‘our’ hotel, but was a widespread thing within the town. Want good staff? Start by valuing them, and you might retain a few of the good ones.

  • Woody

    I have seen the NZ hospitality staff, they are in Vancouver, Whistler, Cairns, Perth, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, in fact anywhere but here because that industry seems to be mostly populated by itinerant young people looking for work and a good time in holiday hotspots far away from home. The many foreign nationals working in the industry here are just the same.

    I have been impressed by the depth of knowledge and enthusiasm of many of those foreign nationals in whatever country they are currently in so I don’t see them as a problem but rather a much needed asset.

  • one for the road

    Everyone is doing their OE- foreigners here and Kiwis offshore. So we see lots of people with foreign accents in hot tourist towns like Queenstown – that is to be expected!.

    Most of them will move on, either when they have had enough and want to keep travelling, or when the economy goes pear shape – what I hope we havent done is give them NZ residency or ability to stay here for ever….

    We dont want permanent residents on the basis of short term demand for skills, rather for their long term commitments to our country!

  • Andy

    Ahh, having to compete with cheap labour that seasonal workers offer is hard for Kiwis who need to earn enough to care for a family, not just pay their backpacker bills

    • island time

      You are absolutely on the mark. The hospitality industry in NZ is a very poor payer and relies heavily on cheap and flexible labour.

  • Ravan

    New Zealanders? Do you mean the British or European–even Maori -the descendants of those whose MEN built this country by blood, sweet and tears, all the roads, footpaths, schools, factories, houses–with little or no machinery and who established the rule of law and an enviable democratic constitutional monarchy? Gone–and not just in tourist spots. Gone at the International Airport. Gone at Auckland Grammar School and every other Auckland school. They’ve been bred out, made stupid by substances, dumbed down by ‘ NCEA ‘iddukashun,’ been kicked to the kerb, used as tax slaves for uneducated single ‘mothers’, ignored by greedy, ‘business’ operators who profit from foreign (illegal) workers on the minimum wage, made homeless by foreign and domestic property grabbers, shut up by PC enforcers, marginalised, by haters–by the multicultural- promoting marxist, leftwing fascists, academic cowards and insane femiNAZI– made a minority by LIEberal policies such as mass immigration, miscegenation, homosexuality—(9% of the world’s population only is European–5% reproductive age only) –45% only European population in Auckland — These ‘New Zealanders’ and all Europeans (see: Jared Taylor-American Renaissance on ‘diversity’) will be the tourist attraction soon–extinct as certain whales on an endangered list–actually, whales would receive more care! At an ANZAC service yesterday–I walked away early carrying my Grandfather’s photo after a second pleasant enough Asian female Epsom Grammar School student stood up and talked about ”our soldiers—our’ boys.’ Imagine going, as a European, to a Chinese war commemoration and calling the soldiers there ‘our boys’!! It would feel like a takeover spirit.—Actually we sold ‘our boys and girls’ entire birthright. God help our children and grandchildren for what replaces that which our ancestors created. As for the perpetrators– the future will most likely be communism or sharia law–talk about killing the White goose that lays the golden eggs!!!