New Zealand’s 100% Pure marketing campaign has been a huge success, promoting the almost magical scenery that featured prominently in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies.
The tourism industry is now booming: in 2015, 3.5 million visitors flocked to NZ, which has a population of just 4.5 million — an increase of 12 percent on the previous year.
NZ boasts diverse and seemingly untouched nature, a moderate climate, and friendly, English-speaking people — a winning formula for tourists. However, not everyone is happy with the direction the industry is taking and many locals are urging the government to come up with a tourism strategy that goes beyond simply focusing on growth.
A recent survey researching perceptions of the industry by Tourism New Zealand showed that almost one in five New Zealanders worry that the country is attracting too many tourists.
Road accidents and traffic congestion were the top concerns, followed by overcrowding, a lack of infrastructure and environmental impacts.
There is no end in sight for the expansion of the tourism industry and visitor numbers are expected to grow 5.4 percent annually to reach 4.5 million by 2022.
One of the country’s major drawcards is its hiking trails, in particular, the Great Walks — nine popular hiking tracks maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC). In the 2015/2016 season, almost 120,000 people hiked the trails that wind along scenic beaches, pass through dense rainforests and over alpine terrain — 12 percent more than the previous period.
More tourists visiting DOC areas means higher costs for infrastructure, waste removal, cleaning campgrounds and other expenses, and there is growing resentment that the money for these comes mainly from New Zealand taxpayers.
The report, commissioned by a variety of tourism industry stakeholders, also looked at funding options. It floated ideas like a hiking fee for the Great Walks, a conservation tax for tourists, car parking charges for national parks and popular scenic spots, and even the privatization of the walks.
“DOC is working with the tourism industry and other stakeholders to explore these options. No decisions have been made, but a number of options for alternative funding are being considered, such as differential fees for international and domestic visitors,” Tourism Minister Paula Bennett said in response.
While the Great Walks were well managed and numbers limited by their accommodation options, there was some concern that New Zealanders could miss out because of their popularity with tourists, FMC president Peter Wilson says.
However, the FMC is not a fan of a hiking fee.
“Freedom of access to public land is enshrined in our law and valued in our culture,” Wilson said.
“What we are seeking is greater funding for our Department of Conservation to ensure excellent experiences for both tourists and Kiwis, and most importantly, protection of our nature.”
|New Zealand May Start Charging US Tax Options, like tourist tax, being ‘explored’ as NZ’s tourism boom faces backlash.|