Opening of Otago Tourism Policy School


9.00am, Friday 8 March 2019

Queenstown Resort College



It is my pleasure to be here with you all this morning, at the inaugural Tourism Policy School conference. It’s fantastic to see the University of Otago assemble such a distinguished audience from across the tourism sector.

I would especially like to acknowledge the hard work of James Higham, Robin Gauld and Craig Stobo for getting this off the ground.

The range of people here today gives mana to this initiative, and elevates the importance of the School’s topic: Tourism and sustainable development.

I was travelling around Queenstown yesterday, and had the opportunity to meet with tourism operators, locals and officials here in Queenstown, Te Anau and in the Milford Sound.

Simply being here makes it clear why more and more visitors want to see our beautiful country and enjoy our unique kiwi hospitality, our manaakitanga.

This is a pivotal time for tourism in Aotearoa.

Tourism is our largest export earner and a vital part of our economy, our regions and our communities.

Tourism alone contributes $39 billion dollars to the economy annually and employs over 200,000 people.

This Government knows that tourism is a huge contributor to New Zealand’s economic success and we need to continue to ensure we get the best from tourism growth for our country and people, while managing the challenges that come with it.

International visitor arrivals have grown by over 40 per cent in the last five years, with an estimated, 3.8 million visitors arriving annually and, forecast projections show this number increasing in the next five years.

This growth is not simply a local trend, but a global phenomenon, driven by globalisation and a rising middle class.

This growth brings into question the sustainability of the tourism sector as a whole.

As a result of such growth, strains are beginning to show in our communities.

Local infrastructure is creaking under a combination of population growth and high visitor numbers.

The positives of tourism growth have also not been felt evenly across the country.

Instead, we have seen it concentrated at our tourist hotspots. 

It is these types of issues which highlight why the Government is committed to a value over volume approach.

We are also committed to making sure everyone benefits from tourism - and last year, we successfully implemented several initiatives to start responding to some of the pressures derived from increasing tourism.

I established the Responsible Camping Working Group to improve the camping system, making $8.5 million available to councils this summer for immediate actions based on their recommendations.

I understand that this has worked especially well here in Queenstown.

I also announced almost $20 million in funding for the second round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund and made changes to the fund that will see a broader range of projects funded, and faster decisions that will deliver essential tourism infrastructure to communities sooner.

The Government is determined to put the long-term wellbeing of New Zealanders and the environment at the heart of what we do.

This has led us to believe that we need to strengthen stewardship of the tourism system. We want to improve collaboration and co-ordination amongst all stakeholders in the sector and have two initiatives to achieve this.

The first is our draft Tourism Strategy, which I announced in collaboration with the Minister of Conservation in November 2018.

The Strategy is focused on maximising the benefits of forecast tourism growth, while managing and mitigating the risks.

It shows how Government intends to take a more active and deliberate role with stakeholders and communities to shape future growth and better coordinate our investments in tourism.

We want to approach tourism in a way which is productive, sustainable and inclusive. Submissions recently closed on the Strategy, and I’m pleased to report that we had a lot of interest. Minister Sage and I intend to finalise the Strategy and make an announcement in the coming months.

The second initiative is the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy. The IVL will be rolling out this year, and the revenue collected from our international visitors will be directly contributing to maintaining and preserving the beautiful natural environment they come to New Zealand to enjoy.

The environment is our most precious taonga, and it’s a huge draw card for both domestic and international visitors.

We must ensure that tourism is regenerative, not degenerative to our natural and human capital. We see the IVL helping in that regard.

The principle behind the IVL is to generate sustainable, long-term revenue which we can use to invest in tourism and conservation.

Within New Zealand, we need to maximise the income generation and employment of tourism, while setting up businesses to be profitable and viable in the long-term for economic sustainability.

This helps to lift our people out of poverty, and promote regional development in New Zealand.

We have an opportunity to make the tourism sector as inclusive as possible, enabling industry to hire and develop from local talent and empowering New Zealanders to be part of the vibrant tourism industry.

We want to encourage visitors to come all times of the year, not just during the peak season, and this will mean there are productive jobs in tourism year-round. I encourage you to think about how we can achieve these goals, and how government and the industry can best work together on economic sustainability.

While most New Zealanders recognise that tourism is beneficial and brings vibrancy to our communities, growth in visitor numbers can put pressure on local communities and could change this positive attitude.

We need to recognise that tourism is not just our landscapes, but the genuine interactions visitors have with the people of Aotearoa.

Māori tourism, which incorporates the value of maanakitanga, exemplifies this value. We want a future where Māori culture and history is respected and celebrated within the industry.

We want all New Zealanders to have the opportunity to share in the wealth and opportunities that tourism brings us.

And so I urge you use this time to think boldly about the challenges the tourism sector faces.

Our Government is looking for innovative, creative and bold ideas.

 I look forward to hearing the outcome of your discussions, as you debate and discuss key policy and research issues in this important sector.

Once again, thank you for the invitation to speak at this inaugural event.

It gives me great pleasure to officially open the Annual Otago Tourism Policy school conference. I hope that after the conference you all get the chance to enjoy what Queenstown has to offer.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.