Go with Tourism Funding Speech
Thank you to the Go with Tourism team for welcoming me to their office today.
I want to acknowledge all the hard work they do, especially in helping grow New Zealand’s tourism workforce.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for the tourism industry due to COVID-19. However, this time has also given us the opportunity to stop, take stock, and reflect on what the future should look like moving forward.
With the New Zealand border now fully open, the summer season fast approaching, and forward bookings flowing through, this is the time to set intentions.
My vision is for our wonderful country to be one of the top 3 aspirational destinations for the world’s most discerning travellers.
If we are an aspirational destination, people are actively thinking about us, they have researched us, heard great things about us, and are dreaming about travelling here.
Tourism New Zealand plays an important role in building that aspiration—these thoughts, dreams, wants and desires— to the point where aspiration turns into action. But often it’s another trigger that is the deciding moment; friends or colleagues recalling their awesome holiday here. We want people to arrive as tourists and leave as storytellers; our great brand ambassadors.
Our tourism operators must deliver on this promise, and ensure visitors have the kind of experience that they’ll talk about for years and convince others that it is worth spending time, effort, and energy to travel here for that bucket-list holiday.
To achieve this goal, a high-quality tourism sector will be integral. This means welcoming high-quality visitors who give back more than they take.
I want to take a moment to explain a little more about what I mean by ‘high quality tourists’ and what I do not mean. High quality visitors are not simply high-net worth individuals who spend the most money.
High-quality visitors are people who come to New Zealand to do more than just spend money – they visit our far-flung, less explored regions. They stay longer and engage with and embrace our unique culture.
High-quality visitors bring respect, a desire to engage with our communities, and leave the environment healthier than they found it.
High-quality tourists meticulously plan their trip so arrive informed; they take time seeking out a unique Maori cultural experience; they go off the well-beaten tourism track and explore the regions; they are prepared to invest in their experience here by visiting the numerous and wonderful tourist destinations we have here; and enjoy our fantastic food experiences as well as fish and chips on the beach.
Our tourism strategy is to ensure that when building global aspiration, we provide as much information as possible, so that those planning a trip are incredibly well informed about what they can do once here. That they make the most of the opportunities that they have during their stay.
We want those who visit us to never forget the amazing experiences they had, and leave as storytellers and ambassadors for New Zealand. We want them to influence how other nations see us – not only driving further tourism, but also providing benefits for trade and international engagement.
We have world-leading attractions and our global brand and value proposition are strong. What we need to do in a post-Covid world where people have choices, is work smart to get the world’s most discerning travellers here and then deliver on a world leading experience.
It is also vital that we transition the tourism industry to a regenerative model - where tourism is giving back more than it takes from people, communities, and the environment.
This has been one of my key drivers in initiating the Tourism Industry Transformation Plan.
The first phase of the Plan is focused on Better Work in the tourism Industry, and the draft Action Plan is now open for consultation till 14 September 2022.
I invite you to have a read through the draft Action Plan and give your feedback.
If you have already taken the time to participate in the consultation process, I thank you. The ITP has been deliberately designed to be a consultative process – bringing together industry, workers, Māori, and Government. True change can’t be achieved without hearing from the people with lived experience.
Transitioning to a regenerative model will take time, and in the short term it is important to also recognise the impact which COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry. One of the challenges we are facing as we rebuild, and which is top of mind for many tourism operators, is the workforce shortage. An issue also being felt across the world.
To help address this issue, I am pleased to announce that a further $2 million in funds from the International Visitor and Conservation Levy, is being allocated to support Go with Tourism’s operation over the coming year. This is in addition to the $5.2 million that Go with Tourism received from the Levy from 2019 to 2022.
Go with Tourism plays a very important role in helping attract and match potential employees with employers in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Go with Tourism also feeds the funnel of future tourism workers by working with schools and educators to change perceptions about tourism as a career and inspire young people to study and take up roles in the industry.
As well as Go with Tourism, the International Visitor and Conservation Levy has funded a number of other important tourism and conservation projects.
Recognising the contribution, the Levy makes to funding the tourism system, you may be aware that I have been considering consulting on possible changes that could be made to the Levy, such as increasing the rate.
However, while I firmly believe sustainable funding models should be explored, following robust conversations with Rebecca Ingram of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, I also recognise that the most important priority for our tourism businesses now is to focus on our customers and our workers and ensure we continue to deliver world class visitor experiences.
As a result, I want to postpone discussion about potential changes to the Levy until late 2023.
When we return to this question, I intend to work in partnership with the industry, in the third stage of the ITP or an equally collaborative model, to find mutually beneficial solutions to sustainable funding within the tourism system.
This is a time of transition for the industry – a time for us to rebuild as we simultaneously plan for and progress initiatives that will ensure New Zealand is a leader in regenerative tourism.
To share my vision for New Zealand Aotearoa as a destination, I have created the Tourism Snapshot. It showcases the Government’s strategic priorities for tourism, and corresponding actions, including those mentioned today.
Examples of these priorities include transforming the foundations of the tourism system, destination brand building, improving the visitor experience, and supporting communities to manage tourism.
I encourage you to read the Snapshot on the MBIE website.
To conclude, I congratulate Go with Tourism on their new funding and thank the team for inviting me to their office today.
I look forward to watching how their continued efforts help build our tourism workforce.