Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Success burdens tourism

John Key has announced $25 million more over four years to develop bike trails such as the Motu Dunes ride in Opotiki. Photo / Supplied
John Key has announced $25 million more over four years to develop bike trails such as the Motu Dunes ride in Opotiki. Photo / Supplied

Tourism is working to avoid being a victim of success but is not expecting much more help in the Budget.

International visitor spending rose 25 per cent to $10 billion in the year to March 2016 as numbers coming here surge to 3.2 million a year.

New Zealand is firmly on the radar for visitors who want a safe, relatively unpolluted country which they can get to more easily on a rapidly growing number of airlines (eight more in the past 12 months) and extra seat capacity put on by existing carriers.

Tourism is struggling with infrastructure shortages - from a lack of toilets in remote destinations to industry-wide staff shortages throughout the industry and, as stressed in a government-commissioned report out yesterday, lack of thousands of hotel beds.

In the leadup to tomorrow's Budget a modest direct assistance package has already been announced.

At the industry's annual showcase, Trenz, this month, Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key said a $12 million contestable fund would help small communities to build toilets, signs and vehicle parks to cope with freedom campers in particular.

The Government wants its funding to be matched dollar for dollar by the communities, but those unable to meet that investment would still be eligible for cash and Key said the funding could be extended if warranted by demand.

And that's bound to happen, with Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief Chris Roberts describing it as a good start and predicting there'll be a big stack of applications from financially strapped councils. At the same time Key announced $8 million more to promote New Zealand in targeted growth markets, the United States and India.

This is on top of the annual funding for promotion agency Tourism New Zealand, which last year was allocated $113 million and has now changed its marketing to target off-peak.

During the past fortnight Key has also announced $25 million more over four years for bike trail development and $4.2 million for specific projects.

While this upbeat industry has calibrated its expectations this year, it will hope to avoid a repeat of last year when it was blindsided by the Budget-night announcement of a new border levy which added up to $26 to round-trip tickets.

- NZ Herald

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