New Zealand/December 17, 2020/By: Debbie Jamieson/Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/
A proposal to stagger school holidays to support the tourism industry was rejected by Education Minister Chris Hipkins as he believed it would disrupt students’ learning.
A briefing paper to incoming Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, released publicly this week, revealed the suggestion and subsequent rejection.
With the absence of international tourists after Covid-19 closed borders, many in the tourism industry believed staggered holidays would stimulate domestic tourism and even out demand.
Hipkins said there were merits in the proposal but changes to the current school holiday timetable would require wide consultation across New Zealand.
The priority in 2020 and 2021 was to minimise disruption to students’ learning, he said
Some changes had been made due to Covid-19, including changing the end date of term one, and schools already had some flexibility for setting their holiday dates.
“Terms and holidays are currently set, based on principles agreed by the sector, with notice years in advance,” he said.
The idea was promoted in May by economist Cameron Bagrie, who suggested dividing the country into two or three school regions, each with a different holiday schedule, would help smooth tourism’s peaks and troughs.
Rolling start dates are common in parts of Europe and in Australia, where school holidays vary by state.
Their introduction in New Zealand could benefit families as well as businesses, he said.
“Anyone who has been up to the skifields in the July school holidays knows how cramped it can get.
“If that two-week break was spread over three or four, it would be better for everyone.”
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief exectuvie Chris Roberts said the tourism industry had supported staggered school terms for many years.
It would not necessarily boost tourism overall but would make it easier for tourism operators to manage staff and resources.
“[The idea] was quickly rejected by the minister and Ministry of Education, and has gone no further. It seems they were not even prepared to discuss it,” he said.
National Party tourism spokesman Todd McClay said his research showed that in Europe, the system tended to lead to unfair advantages for some areas and did not always remove the bottleneck.
A spokeswoman for Tourism Minister Stuart Nash referred Stuff to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which created the briefing paper, for further comment.
“The minister receives a wide range of advice from multiple sources and won’t necessarily have a view on every idea put forward in the tourism sector.”
Nash also had no decision-making role when it came school holidays, she said.