Keeping Tourism Politics FreeTourism
Tourism Industry Association
Rotorua Convention Centre
Glenys Coughlan and Tourism Industry Leaders;
Parliamentary colleagues Damien and Matt, and Reg from ACT;
My colleague and good friend, the Member of Parliament for Rotorua, Max Bradford;
Ladies and gentlemen.
The fact that so many parties are represented here today shows that all of us see growth in tourism as crucial to the country's future.
My initial idea for today's forum was to spend five minutes repeating my four goals for tourism:
* A sustainable flow of tourism earnings, through the global marketing strategy;
* Removing barriers for tourists - visa issues, air services and so forth;
* Removing barriers for the tourism industry, such as improving RMA processes;
* Increasing investment in our tourism industry through delivering an environment that will encourage investment in New Zealand which requires low taxation, smart employment law, competitive rates on services such as accident insurance services, and so on.
After that, I thought I'd attack the other parties' ideas for tourism.
I even did some research on the Internet about what the other parties had to say.
The material for most of the parties doesn't seem to be up on the Internet yet, although National has our policy up and Labour's produced this document.
Some minor parties, such as the Greens, have also produced policy on the internet.
But the good news, when you read through the major parties' policies, is that we're both promising to work to increase foreign exchange earnings in tourism.
And Labour also wants the Government to appoint a Tourism Taskforce.
I must say that's not something I've heard the industry asking for - they certainly haven't approached me about it.
But if the industry believes that a Taskforce is a good idea, then of course that can and should be considered.
When other parties get their tourism policies up on the Internet, I guess there will be similar things we could all agree on.
The Greens, for example, support eco-tourism and I'm sure we could all agree that that's an important niche.
After reading all this material, I decided that it's not really that useful for each of the parties to claim that their tourism policy is the One True Way, and that everyone else means disaster.
This industry has not grown to be New Zealand's biggest because of what politicians have promised or done.
To the contrary.
Before being Minister of Tourism I was Minister of Agriculture, working with industries nearly as valuable as this one.
But over the last decade, those industries have not been growing anywhere near as fast as tourism.
Why you might ask?
One of the key reasons, I believe, is because those industries tend to be so political.
So often, the debate isn't about how to make our products more valuable in the world market.
They're debates about domestic political structures.
They're about "what will Wellington do to increase my payout?".
We saw in tourism earlier this year how damaging it can be for the debate about the industry to become politicised.
Think of the time and money that was spent in Wellington arguing over the global marketing strategy.
In fact, the debate wasn't about whether a particular marketing concept would work well in Asia, Europe or North America.
It was about who said what to who in Wellington.
Both sides of the fence were at fault.
The Government didn't explain its position clearly enough.
The Opposition - as oppositions tend to do - hyped everything up to make it sound as sinister as possible.
Fair enough, I guess.
But as a result of all that political energy being expended, not one extra tourist is in New Zealand today, or extending or upgrading their holiday.
And you've achieved record visitor numbers despite it.
When I became Minister, I tried to put the politics behind us, and look beyond Wellington at the core issues facing the industry.
Not surprisingly, the industry was more than ready to do that.
As a result, our brand-new, first-class global marketing strategy is now in place.
As part of it, our new Internet-based system is in place to continually monitor consumer motivation, among other things.
To leverage off the strategy, we're now working to build our Tourism Marketing Networks in 12 sectors, from backpacking to Super Yachts.
The networks are key to adding particular products and additional messages to the generic "100% Pure" concept.
Given the diversity of the sectors they cover, they'll help us with the goal of attracting tourists throughout the year, every year.
The networks group together tourism operators offering a similar product and service, and associated businesses.
That's going to help broaden the skill base available to different segments of the industry.
It'll mean economies of scale in developing products and promoting them.
Round the country, different Regional Tourism Organisations are re-focusing on the marketplace, with the meetings I attend being about branding particular regions, upgrading infrastructure and improving services.
They're not about politics.
Up in my own electorate for example, they've developed the "Twin Coast Discovery Highway", improving tourists' access to the winterless north and using existing infrastructure in the process.
In Wellington, the bureaucracy has turned its attention back to the important issues for Government - expanding visa free access, streamlining our immigration operations and continuing to negotiate better air service arrangements.
Trade New Zealand and the Tourism Board have expanded their co-operation and information exchange.
And as Minister, my attention is now strongly on working with the industry to attract greater investment, from New Zealand and overseas.
We're talking about the world's biggest industry, with travel costs coming down.
If we're to successfully ride that growth wave, we're going to need greater domestic investment, and we're also going to need investment from overseas.
These are the basic, fundamental issues that you're working on, and I'm committed to assisting you with.
They're about the market.
That's why I really would challenge Labour's notion of yet another Government Taskforce and yet another marketing plan.
This is an industry that has already become our biggest single foreign exchange earner.
We have record visitor numbers.
We're forecast to grow by at least 5.7% per annum.
I don't see what we gain from spending time, energy and money setting up another Government Taskforce and naval gazing for a year or two.
And I can't see that we need to throw away our existing marketing plans and start from scratch.
I'd urge Labour to shelve those ideas, and I guess I should also mention taxes, unions and unravelling the ACC reforms.
For the sake of the tourism industry, I think it would be better for all the political parties to commit to the Government's global marketing strategy.
There are plenty of other things for us to argue about.
The last thing this industry needs is to go back to the politics of earlier in the year - thinking the future lies in Wellington.
The best thing we politicians can do is provide a business environment for your innovative ideas to flourish.
That's what National's committed to do.