The Tourism Industry Association has reported on progress on its Tourism 2025 growth framework launched two years ago, with tourism spending estimated to have reached $32.5 billion in the year ended March 31.
In the two years since the growth framework was unveiled, the industry's performance has exceeded all forecasts, with a 20.1 percent increase in international arrivals. Domestic tourism climbed 9.2 percent in the same two-year period. However, there's been little progress on spreading visitors outside of the tourism hotspots and shifting arrivals outside the summer peak.
"We are well ahead of the growth rate needed to reach our $41 billion goal by 2025," said TIA chief executive Chris Roberts today, speaking at Trenz, the country's largest international trade tourism event.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says while it took 13 years to grow from two to three million visitors, the growth from three to four million will be more rapid and is likely within the next four or five years.
Roberts said two things were needed to capitalise on future growth - boosting visitors during the shoulder and off-peak season and channelling more into regional areas, which both help with capacity constraints at key tourism destinations during the peak season.
Growth in the main destinations has been higher than for secondary destinations in the past two years.
Tourism NZ has in the past two years spent 80 percent of its annual $80 million marketing budget on promoting travel off-peak and is now moving that to 100 percent as growing New Zealand's shoulder seasons takes top priority.
"It's a hard nut to crack. The regions want these visitors but the infrastructure has to be in place. We can't shift big tour groups to places where there are no hotels for them," Bowler says. "It's a Catch 22."
Christopher Luxon, chief executive of Air New Zealand which brings 40 percent of all international visitors to New Zealand, says industry collaboration is key to further growth.
"Tourism is the ultimate team sport and we're playing it really well but we have to collaborate and have clarity on our goals," he says.