Tailoring tourism to high-end travellers will only hurt struggling sector - advocate

On Friday Tourism Minister Stuart Nash outlined his vision for the future of the industry.
On Friday Tourism Minister Stuart Nash outlined his vision for the future of the industry. Photo credit: Getty Images

Advocates for foreign backpackers say tailoring the tourism industry to suit high-end travellers will hinder the already struggling sector.

On Friday Tourism Minister Stuart Nash outlined his vision for the future of the industry, including how to make tourism more sustainable.

Nash is considering raising the levy overseas tourists pay to enter the country, and has said he wants tourists to be spending about $300 a day.

The minister also wants to make sure New Zealanders don't have to pick up the cost of hosting international visitors, which could mean different price levels at some tourist spots, including national parks.

Nash told Checkpoint the $35 levy foreign tourists paid would have to rise, but he would not be drawn on how big an increase he was considering.

He also said people who visited New Zealand and bought vans which were not self-contained and spent as little as $10 a day were "not really the sort of tourists we want".

Chris Sperring of the Backpacker Youth Adventure Tourism Association said more discussion of the possible impact of Nash's proposals is needed.

"We would like to discuss all those potential rises in costs, so Tongariro is one, Milford Sound is another one because there is probably a more sophisticated and intelligent way of managing over-saturation and peak visitor flows."

He said one idea is different time windows for travellers but the tourism sector can't afford any potential visitor being put off by higher costs.

"We would seek exemptions to border levies and bed taxes that have been seen in European countries because we don't want to put in place any financial barrier that would see tourism coming back to this country."

The chief executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Chris Roberts, said his body will back moves to improve the sector, but it needs to know exactly what the government is proposing.

He said the main problems, such as pressure on infrastructure in certain regions, are known, and while the borders are closed it's a good time to discuss what type of tourism the country wants.

"It would be a huge shame if, in a few years' time, the same problems are re-occurring so we have a responsibility as an industry to work with government to do better this time round. That's why we need to see the detail of what the government and the minister is thinking about."

Roberts said he also has questions about the possibility of increasing the levy for overseas visitors.