More is not necessarily better when it comes to international tourists.

At current rates of growth, the number of international visitors to New Zealand will equal the New Zealand population by 2025. Tourism is already New Zealand's largest export earner. But people are starting to be concerned about the negative impact of our high proportion of international visitors, on traffic congestion, pressure on infrastructure, environmental damage, accommodation shortages and general overcrowding. The government strategy is to attract people in the off-season and to encourage people to visit more regions, stay for longer and spend more, but that doesn’t stop people from wanting to include the most popular destinations, like Queenstown, in their itinerary.

Senior Lecturer Helen Geytenbeek compared tourism management in New Zealand with Bhutan. New Zealand has a low value/high volume approach whereas Bhutan has a more sustainable high value/ low volume strategy. Visitor entry into Bhutan is restricted, so in 2018 the number of international tourists was only a third of the national population. They also have a set tariff for visitors.

The New Zealand government has recently introduced a modest tourist tax of $35 per visitor. While it is useful to collect revenue to help fund infrastructure to cope with visitors, Helen recommends that the government go further and adopt a destination management plan that limits numbers and attracts high value visitors who will spend more. It is necessary to balance the short term financial gain from more visitors against a longer term sustainable future of the places people want to visit.

Image credit: Guillaume Capron, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0.

April 2020