Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash has flagged a shake-up of visitor pricing, including on the Department of Conservation estate, as part of his game plan for the industry.
On Friday morning, Nash outlined his vision for the industry at the Tourism Policy School in Queenstown.
It include four main principles:
- Re-setting and rebuilding tourism to be more sustainable as the industry can't simply return to business as usual
- Ensuring Aotearoa is seen as one of the world's most aspirational travel destinations
- Recognising that costs and negative impacts associated with tourism must be mitigated or priced into the visitor experience so rate and tax payers aren't the cost of hosting visitors aren't bearing the costs
- More partnership between the government and the tourism industry including with businesses and workers
Nash said the industry could not return to the status quo, but that would not mean hard hit communities would be left behind.
"Regions heavily reliant on international tourism, dare I say it overly reliant on international tourism, should have a range of alternatives because we don't want to be in this situation again," he said.
"We all want tourism to transition to more sustainable practices. But we cannot leave people and communities behind. I do recognise that in some areas, its not simply about supporting tourism businesses, but ensuring communities survive."
He confirmed there would be a targeted focus on areas where there is a heavy reliance on international tourism including Queenstown Lakes, South Westland, Fiordland, Mackenzie District and Kaikōura, but didn't give further details on support measures.
"We have an opportunity now, while the borders are closed, to re-shape tourism so that when we re-open, and international visitors return in meaningful numbers, the sector, and our host communities are operating on more assured model.
"There's a lot of work to do, but I want to reiterate that we won't leave our worst affected communities behind."
Nash pointed out that the government invested $400 million in tourism recovery alone last year including $299m in cash grants and loans for 130 businesses and $20.2m for the country's 31 Regional Tourism Organisations.
"I would like to see changes in pricing strategies across our public assets, so that they become financially self-sustaining. I would like this to include a closer look at existing local levies, changes to the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy. I will be working closely with the Minister of Conservation on her approach to pricing for public conservation lands and waters," Nash said.
One of the objectives he outlined was to enable tourism businesses to make hard decisions around their current operations.
"This may require us to help make advice available from those who have deep expertise and experience, in areas like business continuity in times of extreme uncertainty," Nash said.
"This may require steps to make it easier to hibernate or suspend a company, and then provide support when they are ready to start up again. This is because we want to then ensure those tourism businesses that do choose a form of suspension don't face a significant financial burden when gearing up to open once international tourists start arriving."