16 May Analysis: What Govt’s new plan for tourism means
The government has unveiled a new strategy for sustainable tourism as its overseas marketing arm prepares to persuade more New Zealanders the industry is good for them.
Right down to delegates’ recyclable paper bags sustainability has been dominating the industry’s main event, Trenz, this week, and today Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage doubled down on the theme.
While a record 308 tourism operators were enthusiastically trying to attract more business from buyers in Rotorua, there is widespread acknowledgement that the squeeze in some parts of the country from tourists at some times of the year has not gone away and signs locals’ patience is wearing even thinner.
And the lack of awareness among New Zealanders of the importance of tourism to the economy – it is the number one export earner – is worrying the industry.
This will soon see government agency Tourism NZ under the new board leadership of Jamie Tuuta selling this country to Kiwis as well as marketing where it usually does – overseas.
The ministers said today their new strategy sets out ”a more deliberate and active” role for government in tourism, to better manage the challenges of growth and share the benefits of tourism more widely.
“Tourism is a vital part of New Zealand’s ongoing success, supporting national and regional economies, creating jobs and allowing us to celebrate who we are. We must ensure that we’re set up to continue enjoying these benefits, while better managing the challenges that growth can bring,” Davis says.
The New Zealand-Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy document is an admirably slender 17 pages and lists four immediate priorities for 2019/20. They are:
Coordination across the tourism system
This will see powerful agencies, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Department of Conservation will take a leadership approach to coordinate the Government’s tourism efforts across the public sector in a sign of a more hands-on role.
Long-term sustainable funding mechanisms
On the money score that’s one where this government took the leap – in the face of industry reservations. It will soon be collecting around $80 million a year from a $35 visitor levy collected from most but Australians and those from the Pacific Islands.
Destination management and planning
There are many regional tourism organisations and local agencies involved in this, some more switched on than others and with bigger ratepayer bases to fund them. In the short term, the government will identify priority regions to work with directly and develop guidelines to be shared with other regions. A welcome move.
Better data and insight
While Tourism NZ released deeper profiles of key markets this week, the government is promising more for the industry that’s been crying out for it. A ”Tourism Data Domain Plan” promises to identify future trends that could impact on tourism system and coordinate and share data and insight to support the industry. The danger here is doubling up on what’s out there already and what companies such as Auckland Airport plans to do with measuring sustainability.
While very much a ”framework,” these four priorities have been welcomed, they’re from the same songbook shared by nearly every industry group and business at Trenz. Tourism Industry Aotearoa says the government and the sector is steering the waka in the same direction.
But in an industry where there are a lot of strategies, working groups and discussion papers will remain fuzzy without the political drive and money to make them happen.
That’s why the $80 million is so valuable.
This will be shared tourism infrastructure and conservation where the industry will be looking for any detail of Sage’s plans.
The industry would want levy spending on areas most frequented by visitors to national parks and conservation areas, still a huge drawcard for more than half the 3.9 million visitors, rather than being channelled into a remote project where nobody goes.
Today, Sage said she wants rising visitor numbers to be part of the solution for our biggest conservation challenges; including climate change, the impact of pest species, and habitat loss and degradation.
She’s making soothing noises about where spending has been in the past. In the under-pressure Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park that since 2010, DOC has invested over $16.5 million in visitor facilities within the national park including a new visitor centre, road improvements, tracks, and more toilets. But she talks about the ”biodiversity crisis” that means 4000 species are under threat or at risk of extinction.
Expect the levy funds to go this way but she says it just won’t be in the back blocks, there’ll be some high profile projects so overseas levy payers can see where their money is being spent.
It just won’t be in the back blocks – how can visitors see the levy they are paying is paying for the protection of nature – we’re very aware of that so there will be som high profile projects
“Tourism can be a champion for the restoration of the natural environment, and show other industries and sectors how it can be done successfully,” she says.
Climate change goes together with tourists – many attracted to our conservation estate – so how they can help mitigate this is a challenge. Offset schemes only go so far.
Air travel the vast distances to this country and get around here is still inherently polluting –
Air New Zealand alone contributing 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Alternatively powered planes are years away and electric ground transport relative to petrol or diesel-powered ground transport is in its infancy.
Davis says alarm at freedom camping has ebbed, but it is still a concern among those surveyed by the industry recently and something he is determined to tackle. There will be more announcements on that.
The survey showed 93 per cent of New Zealanders thought tourism was a good idea, those who thought there were too many overseas visitors had ticked up to 26 per cent during the last six months.
Only 12 per cent knew that tourism was our biggest foreign exchange earner and the industry struggles with a perception problem as a career choice.
This is something that Tourism New Zealand’s next iteration of its 20-year-old 100% Pure campaign will turn to when it is released next month. But in new chairman Tuuta the organisation has a forceful leader who has clear ideas about the need to make Kiwis as enthusiastic about tourism as overseas visitors.
He’s not giving away much but he says it will be exciting.
”It will not only speak to our International visitors but also speak to New Zealanders.”
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