International visitor levy consultation launch speech

I’d like to welcome everyone and thank you for coming.

It is a real privilege to be the Minister for a sector that makes such a significant contribution to New Zealand.

The tourism industry is delivering jobs, economic growth and outstanding experiences.

3.8 million International visitors arrive to our shores every year – a number that is expected to grow to 5.1 million by 2024.

They come here for the experiences we offer, the hospitality of our people, the stories we share and our beautiful landscapes.

But as the number of visitors to our country increases year on year, so does the pressure grow on our infrastructure, on our conservation estate, and on our communities.

In many places, our tourism infrastructure is creaking at the seams.

As a Government we need to find a way to provide sustainable funding to invest in both our Tourism Infrastructure and our Conservation estate.

We don’t believe that the financial burden should rest purely on the shoulders of New Zealanders. We do believe that visitors should pay their fair share.

Today I am launching a discussion document on an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.

This Levy will ensure our international visitors contribute to the infrastructure they use and help protect the natural places they come here to enjoy.

We have designed this Levy with care.

It will not cause disruption at the border. And it will not affect our major short haul markets, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

As Paul just mentioned, the government has also begun a consultation on the introduction of an Electronic Travel Authority.

Already we’ve ruled out charging the IVL through tickets or requiring payment at the airport.

Visitors will pay their Levy when applying for an ETA or Visa. We believe this option is hassle-free.

We are consulting on a small levy rate of $25 to $35, which would generate between $60-80 million in its first year. This is only one per cent of the average visitor spend.

We are proposing that this money will be targeted towards tourism and conservation infrastructure  - and we’re interested to hear your views on how we might spend this money to best effect.

One outcome I am keen to explore is how this money can help places like Franz Joseph, and Tekapo – where not many ratepayers live, but a lot of people go and visit.

 The consultation on the IVL will run until 15 July.

Policy decisions on all three are anticipated in September, and the Levy will then require legislation. I expect the Levy will be in place in the second half of 2019.

I am excited about the future of the New Zealand tourism industry.

Managed well, this growth will significantly boost New Zealand’s economy, bring prosperity to the regions and improve New Zealanders’ quality of life.

This Levy is an important step in ensuring the growth is managed well.

I know the industry had concerns. I’ve heard them and have taken them into account when designing this system.

But we know, given the projected growth in visitors that doing nothing, is not an option.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and continuing to work with the sector to not only overcome some of the challenges we face, but to also make the most of the opportunities our future Tourism potential brings to our shores.