New Zealand

Tourism directly contributed NZD 16.2 billion or 5.8% to New Zealand’s GVA in 2019. The indirect value added of industries supporting tourism generated an additional NZD 11.2 billion. International tourism is New Zealand’s largest export earner (20.4% of exports), directly employing 230 000 people, representing 8.4% of total employment, and generating NZD 3.8 billion in goods and services tax revenue. Travel exports accounted for 63.8% of total service exports in 2018.

Latest official international tourism forecasts estimate that visitor arrivals to New Zealand will grow at 4% a year, reaching 5.1 million visitors by 2025, up from 3.9 million in 2018. Between 2017 and 2018 arrivals grew by 3.5%. Top visitor markets are Australia (38% of international tourists), China (12%), and the United States (9%). By 2025, Australian visitors are expected to increase by 19% and Chinese visitors by 55%. Australia is currently the largest market by spending although Chinese spending will be a close second by 2025. Total international visitor spending is expected to reach NZD 15 billion in 2025, up 34% from 2018. Domestic tourists accounted for 22.8 million nights in 2018, up 2.5% over 2017.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) provides advice to the Government on creating productive, sustainable and inclusive growth in the tourism sector. The New Zealand Tourism Board, Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), markets the country as a visitor destination internationally. Two subsidiary organisations of TNZ - Qualmark Limited and Visitor Information Network Incorporated - play an important role in efforts to improve visitor satisfaction and product quality. The Tourism Chief Executives’ Group co-ordinates the Government’s tourism-related activities and manages relationships across a range of ministers whose portfolios intersect with the tourism sector.

Local and regional authorities in New Zealand provide tourism-related infrastructure and local planning frameworks to help communities grow and manage local tourism challenges. Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) are responsible for promoting their regional destinations. Some are also starting to take an interest in destination management, and MBIE is working with these RTOs to develop destination management plans. The funding structures of RTOs vary – they are largely funded and governed by local or regional governments, but some RTOs also receive additional funding from other sources, including central government, and annual membership fees from local industry and industry partnership funding.

The government budget directly related to tourism for the 2019/20 financial year is NZD 227.1 million, with NZD 111.4 million allocated to TNZ for marketing of New Zealand as a visitor destination, NZD 41.8 million from the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy for Tourism Strategic Infrastructure and System Capability, and NZD 33.3 million for the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. The total budget includes NZD 12.7 million for departmental expenses, NZD 19.5 million for cycleways, and NZD 8.4 million Tourism Facilities Development Grants.

Launched in May 2019, the New Zealand-Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy aims to encourage a whole-of-government approach to productive, sustainable and inclusive tourism growth. The Strategy is a joint initiative of the MBIE and the Department of Conservation, and sets out five outcomes: i) tourism supports thriving and sustainable regions; ii) tourism sector productivity improves; iii) New Zealand-Aotearoa delivers exceptional visitor experiences; iv) tourism protects, restores and champions New Zealand-Aotearoa’s natural environment, culture and historic heritage; and v) New Zealanders’ lives are improved by tourism.

Key themes addressed by the Strategy include:

  • Ensure that tourism’s benefits are more equitably spread – both regionally and across the seasons – while ensuring quality outcomes for all involved, along with the protection of the local environment: Community support – or “social licence” – is critical for a successful and sustainable tourism sector. New Zealanders’ perceptions of tourism are measured through the Mood of the Nation research, commissioned by TNZ and Tourism Industry Aotearoa. The March 2019 survey showed the vast majority of respondents (93%) think international tourism is good for New Zealand. However, there is a growing concern about the costs to communities of hosting visitors, and the ability of local government to meet these costs.

  • Better data and information to provide insight for both Government and industry: Tourism data is often narrow, and existing sources fail to account for new developments, for example the sharing accommodation sector. A new Tourism Data Domain Plan prepared by MBIE in 2018 contains 29 initiatives designed to fill current and future gaps in tourism statistics, and ensure that the data being collected is relevant, useful and meets future needs, and is also assessed, analysed and understood to enable better decision making (see box). In October 2019, the Minister of Tourism held a Tourism Information and Data Hui (Assembly) to set the path towards a collaborative dynamic tourism data system that generates value, building on the work of Tourism Data Domain Plan. MBIE will continue to work with other government agencies and the wider tourism sector to implement the outcomes of the Hui.

Top action priorities for 2019/20 include: strong co-ordination across the tourism system using the principle of the whole-of-government approach, the implementation of the new International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (Box 1.9) and actions relating to sustainable funding sources, destination management and planning using priority regions and best practice guidance, and producing better data and insight via the Tourism Data Domain Plan, and a focus on future trends.

Other important policy initiatives include:

  • Tiaki Care for New Zealand aims to encourage visitors to act as kaitiaki (guardians) of New Zealand, with public and private sector tourism organisations proactively coming together to encourage positive visitor behaviour.

  • To support more responsible camping, the 2011 Freedom Camping Act was introduced to help authorities better manage freedom camping and its impacts. In August 2018, the Government invested NZD 8.5 million to create infrastructure, technology, monitoring and education projects across 27 local councils with similar levels of funding agreed for 2019/20. Visitor management was improved by using real-time availability and AI to guide camper behaviour, helping to reduce the number of people camping in inappropriate places. The data also provided councils with better information about visitor volumes and behaviour, informing the locations of infrastructure, amenities and other support such as ambassador programmes.

  • The Provincial Growth Fund invests in regional tourism opportunities, with NZD 264 million committed to tourism-related projects at 31 May 2019. Other initiatives include the annual NZD 25 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund to develop tourism-related infrastructure that supports regions facing pressure from tourism growth, and NZD 42 million new funding for the Department of Conservation sourced from the International Visitor and Conservation levy.

  • MBIE is currently developing a sustainable tourism dashboard aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Government’s climate change objectives.

  • The Department of Conservation undertook a trial of differential pricing on the Great Walks of New Zealand where international visitors were charged more to stay in huts and campsites. This trial allowed more New Zealanders to experience the Great Walks, and increased the proportion of revenue contributed by international visitors. People wanting to use public conservation land to run a business or activity are also required to get a concession and pay a fee. For example, businesses who wish to run guided walks on conservation land must pay an initial fee of NZD 400 for up to 10 tracks, plus a further fee for additional tracks.

  • The Milford Opportunities Project aims to develop innovative solutions to manage the Milford Sound Piopiotahi with core values and a sustainable future in mind. With visitor numbers forecast to reach 2 million by 2035, the current management and infrastructure are insufficient to protect conservation and deliver a safe and high-quality visitor experience. A vision and masterplan for the destination have been development, and next step to achieve this vision are currently being defined.

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