New Zealand will lose its share of the world's tourists unless it boosts its marketing spending by at least $20 million more a year, the tourism industry says.
The warning comes as part of an election "wish list" which the Tourism Industry Association will present to Parliament today in a bid to focus political minds on what it sees as the top priorities for the sector.
Those priorities include better recognition of tourism as an economic contributor, more money spent on marketing the nation, investing in infrastructure, improving New Zealand's environmental performance, better training and boosting returns from major events such as theRugby World Cup in three years.
Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar said its demands came at a time when the industry was facing its toughest challenges for more than 20 years.
"New Zealand tourism has flourished over the past 20 years, but times are changing. Global economic conditions, rising fuel prices and a strong New Zealand dollar have seen growth in international visitor arrivals slow to just 1 per cent in the past year."
Cossar said that while the World Tourism Organisation predicted global growth in tourism would increase at an average of 4 per cent a year in the medium term, New Zealand was forecasting just 3.3 per cent growth.
"If we don't take action now New Zealand will undoubtedly find it harder to maintain the marketshare its tourism exports enjoytoday."
Tourists spend around $20 billion a year in New Zealand. The sector contributes close to 10 per cent of gross domestic product and employs nearly one in 10 New Zealanders either directly or indirectly.
The country spends $79 million on marketing itself to the world but Cossar said this needed to be upped by $20 million to $30 million for international marketing and $3 million to $5 million for domestic marketing to maintain and grow New Zealand's market share of tourists.
The association wants to see tourism prioritised by the establishment of an industry taskforce. It also wants the Government to recognise its importance by allocating the tourism portfolio to a top-ranking minister_ preferably the Prime Minister.
The Rugby World Cup is another major focus with the association calling for the Government to work with the industry to ensure the right people, skills, infrastructure, accommodation, facilities and services are available in time for 2011.