Whale Watch Kaikoura back to survival mode due to COVID-19

By Jessica Tyson

Tourism business Whale Watch Kaikoura has gone back to survival mode due to the lack of tourism caused by COVID-19.

General manager Kauahi Ngapora says the business usually has around 800 customers but that number has gone down to zero.

“COVID has definitely put us on the back foot again and I guess it’s been crisis after crisis. So I guess it had taken a toll on the town.”

The business also had to bounce back from the major earthquake in 2016, and limited road and rail access.

“So I guess, three and a half years on from the Kaikoura earthquake, the town was still recovering, he says.

He says domestic tourism only makes up around is about 20 per cent of those coming through the door, the other 80 percent are from people overseas.

“Domestic will never replace the international market."

He says he would like the government to engage directly with communities and businesses to help them recover from the crisis.

“We’ve got a view that a one size fits all approach to supporting regions and businesses is not really going to work. What might work in a big city is not going to work in rural communities such as Kaikoura.”’

Despite the lack of business, Ngapora says the whales are doing well.

“I’ve been getting reports of humpback whales reaching around the peninsular so I think the whales and the dolphins and the rest of the marine life will be enjoying this time.”

Ngapora says he says he can’t wait to get out there and visit the kaitiaki out in the water.