More than three million people a year come from all over the world to visit New Zealand. They enjoy our unique natural beauty, culture, and Kiwi hospitality. International tourists spent $10b here last year, supporting more than 300,000 jobs.
Tourism’s success means we need more infrastructure to serve all these visitors, especially if we want to attract high-spending tourists who will increase the value-add of the sector to the New Zealand economy.
The strain on infrastructure and the funding problem are clear. Councils and the Department of Conservation receive little of the financial benefit of tourism, but have to supply the infrastructure tourists use, and smaller councils often do not have the rating base to fund the necessary investment. From Northland to Southland, councils are facing increasing pressure to support growing numbers of tourists without the funds to do it.
It is time for the Government to help ensure we deliver a world-class experience to tourists, without unfairly burdening local communities.
Establish a $75m a year Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund to pay for projects that will improve the experience of visitors to New Zealand and enhance our natural environment
Provide this $75m a year of investment through a $25 per visit levy on international visitors who are not citizens or residents of New Zealand.
Excluding New Zealand citizens and residents, three million people visited New Zealand last year, meaning a $25 Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund Levy will raise $75m a year.
60 per cent of the Fund ($45m per year) will be used to grow our tourism industry and 40 per cent ($30m per year) will be used to protect our biodiversity and ensure conservation is properly resourced.
The $45m per year for growing the tourism industry will be split with 60 per cent going towards funding tourism infrastructure projects ($27m per year), 20 per cent to training ($9m per year) and the remaining 20 per cent for support in high demand areas like Queenstown ($9m per year).
The $30m per year for conservation will be used to increase biodiversity funding and for conservation infrastructure.
It’s only fair that the cost of these important projects is recouped from the international visitors that enjoy them. This will help take pressure off local communities and councils from increasing visitor numbers.
With international visitor numbers projected to grow each year by 5 per cent or more than 150,000, this approach means funding will automatically be created to meet the growing need.
There is no evidence to support the claim that a small tourism levy will affect tourist international numbers. International visitors spend, on average, more than $3,000 each in New Zealand and more than $1,000 on international airfares. The $25 Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund Levy will add less than 1 per cent to this and is far less than the variability in airfares. After the current Government introduced a $22 border levy, visitor numbers were not impacted at all – in fact, they rose more quickly than expected.
The Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund will ensure New Zealand has the infrastructure and attractions needed to support tourism, and our natural treasures that bring so many visitors here are protected and enhanced for future generations.