New Zealand has seen a 12 percent increase in the tourism industry from 2014 to 2015 with an amazing 3.5 million visitors in 2015. That’s an amazing feat in a country with a population of only 4.5 million people. It speaks great things about the 100% Pure marketing campaign by Tourism New Zealand.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. A recent survey conducted by Tourism New Zealand showed nearly one in five Kiwis are concerned that New Zealand is attracting too many tourists. They are concerned about road congestion and accidents, as well as overcrowding, lack of infrastructure suitable for tourists and the environmental impacts on the number of tourists visiting New Zealand.
What’s the secret to New Zealand’s tourism boom? Part of it has to be our climate and environment. Being an English speaking country is a surely an advantage, but you can’t deny that New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Lord of the Rings did amazing things to get our more beautiful hidden scenery into the mainstream.
What’s the cost of tourism?
The tourism industry is expected to continue to expand. It is forecasted to reach 4.5 million visitors by 2022, with a 5.4% annual growth between now and then. That growth, however, comes at a cost. New Zealand’s Federated Mountain Club (FMC) has said in a statement, “[Tourism] impacts on infrastructure are obvious; roads, car parks, campsites, conservation honey pots, even recreation access across private land, all are creaking under the load, much of which is down to sheer numbers.” The FMC is the umbrella organisation under which sit 80 hiking groups across New Zealand.
New Zealand has seen the increase in tourism is some of our amazing walking tracks, including the ‘Great Walks’. The Great Walks arenine hiking tracks which the Department of Conservation (DoC) maintain. Last year, DoC saw more than a 12% increase in people using the trails to over 120,000 people.
Competition for space
In such a small country with a low population, Kiwis are used to space. Tt’s unusual for us to have to compete for space.
Karen Fisher of Wellington walked two Great Walks over the Christmas period. She said, “because of the easy accessibility and the numerous day trip tours available, the tracks in the Abel Tasman National Park were very crowded during the day.”
The increase in the number of people using the trails increases the cost of infrastructure, rubbish removal, cleaning and maintenance for DoC. When Kiwis are finding it hard to book huts or find places to camp along popular tracks, it’s understandable why they are frustrated. The majority of money for maintenance and upkeep comes from New Zealand taxpayers.
A recent report by McKinsey, a consultancy firm, found DoC covers only five 5% of its costs through user pays. Approximately 20% in US, Canadian and Australian national parks is paid by users. The same report looked at funding options available to DoC including instituting a hiking fee or privatisation of the Great Walks, a tourist ‘conservation tax’ and charging for parking at popular national parks and scenic destinations.
Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has said “DOC is working with the tourism industry and other stakeholders to explore these options. No decisions have been made, but a number of options for alternative funding are being considered, such as differential fees for international and domestic visitors.”
FMC president Peter Wilson is concerned that New Zealanders could miss out on the Great Walks. Even though they are well managed, their popularity and limited accommodation options limits use. FMC does not support a hiking fee. “Freedom of access to public land is enshrined in our law and valued in our culture,” Wilson said. “What we are seeking is greater funding for our Department of Conservation to ensure excellent experiences for both tourists and Kiwis, and most importantly, protection of our nature.”