Survey reveals Kiwis are not happy with tourists

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 May 2019, 6:07PM

Survey reveals Kiwis are not happy with tourists

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 May 2019, 6:07PM

The proportion of New Zealanders who believe tourism is good for the country has dipped and more Kiwis surveyed than ever think the number of tourists is too high.

A survey out today reveals those tired of tourists believe New Zealand lacks the infrastructure to support them, are worried about the impact on road congestion and safety and have a negative impact on the environment.

The proportion of those who agree or strongly agree that tourism is good for the country has fallen during the last six months from 95 per cent to 93 per cent. That figure has been as high as 96 per cent although two years ago was lower - 92 per cent.

The study done for Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) found that after stabilising for the past year, the percentage of those surveyed who said the number of tourists had risen to an all time high - 26 per cent.

This will be a wake-up call for the industry ahead of next week's Trenz gathering - the main event to market the country to buyers.

Despite this, around half believe New Zealand attracts just the right number of international visitors which have tipped over 3.8 million a year.

The number of visitors - both tourists and those here for other reasons - is predicted to climb to 5.1 million in the next five years and that worries those surveyed to record levels.
The proportion of New Zealanders who believe the predicted growth is too much has been climbing since December 2015 and had now increased to more than 52 per cent.

And the proportion of those who think the government and the tourism industry was not doing enough to address the pressure of tourism growth had risen from 21 per cent to 26 per cent during the last six months.

But Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says is happy with the high proportion of those who believe international tourism was good for the country.

''The main thing is that 93 per cent who support tourism is very high. I think what happens is the 7 per cent who don't support it get most of the air time''

What surprised Davis was the low proportion of those who were not aware of the importance of tourism to the economy as the top export sector. Tourism vies with dairy as the biggest earner of foreign exchange earner with latest annual figures showing it was worth $16.2 billion a year.

''That surprises me - I don't think people have made the connection about how much tourism is worth to the country.''

He wasn't surprised that pressure on infrastructure was the main concern in the six monthly Mood of the Nation survey of 1080 people done by Kantar TNS in February and March.

Pressure on infrastructure was the main concern among 44 per cent of respondents while concern about increased traffic congestion had rocketed from 14 per cent a year ago to 25 per cent in the latest survey.

Davis said there were moves to rectify the infrastructure deficit and there would be more to spend when the new visitor levy is imposed in July.

''The government and the tourism industry is working hard to put in place better infrastructure but it always takes time to be build. Getting the right infrastructure in the right place just takes time.''

Davis is also claiming a win for government action leading to reduced concern about freedom camping which had fallen from 16 per cent a year ago to 11 per cent. The government's visitor levy will raise an estimated $80 million a year to pay for tourism infrastructure and conservation projects.

About 2.3m international visitors entering New Zealand for 12 months or less will have to pay the new $35 charge, with exemptions for Pacific Islands and Australia.

Davis said the levy was on track for introduction on July 1.

Revenue would be split between funding tourism infrastructure and conservation, such as in under-pressure National Parks.

The survey showed New Zealanders' attitudes towards tourism depended largely on where they live.

It highlighted a big difference in attitudes between Queenstown residents and those living elsewhere in Otago.

Queenstown residents are more likely to think there is too much pressure from international visitors (76 per cent) compared to the rest of Otago (47 per cent).

Queenstown residents also have more concerns around traffic congestion, accommodation prices, road accidents and staff shortages.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said this wasn't a surprise.

"Queenstown is a hugely popular destination for Kiwis and international visitors, who pour billions of dollars into the Queenstown economy. While locals do generally acknowledge the benefits of tourism, they also experience the pressures of growth.''

Queenstown is holding a referendum on imposing a local tax in the town which attracts the highest number of visitors per head of local residents.