Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Care needed over tourism charges, says exiting chief

Outgoing Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says the industry needs to be careful about how it imposes any extra charges for visitors as infrastructure comes under increasing pressure.

Tourist numbers are running at record highs and Bowler, who has resigned to head drinks company Frucor, said the private sector was likely to come up with its own suggestions for new ways of funding tourism facilities later this year.

While more than 3 million international visitors paid more than $1 billion in GST a year some smaller centres' facilities were under extreme pressure and parts of the country were crowded in peak periods.

Bed taxes and fees for foreign visitors to national parks have been mooted by some in the industry but Bowler said there could be unintended consequences from such moves.

Hotel operators could be disadvantaged if taxes were imposed which Airbnb hosts could avoid.

"I think we need to look broadly internationally. A lot of work is going on in that space."

Bowler, 53, said he had been looking at opportunities to move back into the private sector for a while after seven years at the helm of Tourism New Zealand.

The 100% Pure New Zealand campaign had been running since 1999 and Bowler hoped it would continue.

Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key said Bowler had done an outstanding job.

"Kevin and his team have done a great job marketing New Zealand through different channels, which has seen the industry go from strength to strength and become our top export earner."

Bowler was instrumental in leveraging off the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the Hobbit films, and introducing international ambassadors to promote New Zealand in new and emerging markets.

"This has helped see our international tourist numbers grow from 2.5m in 2010 to 3.3m last year and the amount they spend increase from $6.9b in 2010 to $10.2b last year."

The surge in air capacity into New Zealand was helping bring the steep increase in the number of tourists here but Bowler said tourism organisations had to make their own luck.

Tourists wouldn't continue to demand airline seats and they wouldn't stick with routes unless the country was desirable.

Bowler said he was particularly attracted to Frucor - which sells V, Fresh Up, Just Juice, Pepsi and Gatorade - because of its strong focus on providing choice for customers.

The soft drink industry attracted criticism for high sugar content in its products but Bowler said he was looking forward to encouraging healthier beverages.

He begins his new role in early November. Tourism NZ chairwoman Kerry Prendergast said he will leave at the end of October.

Prendergast said Bowler had transformed Tourism New Zealand into a high performing, digital-led, integrated marketing communications business with a clear mission.

"During his tenure, Kevin has reinvigorated the way the country is marketed, narrowing the organisation's focus to people already 'actively considering' New Zealand and delivering significant value to the economy through the use of tar-geted digital media channels," she said.

Bowler joined the organisation in January 2010 when the travel industry was still in recovery after the global financial crisis, which damaged traditional British and US markets. The Christchurch earthquakes and then the Japanese disaster in 2011 also hurt the market.

Prendergast said his time at Tourism NZ had been marked by the "remarkable success" of leveraging international attention gained from the Rugby World Cup and The Hobbit films; using international ambassadors for promotion; expansion into new markets and sectors, and significant partnerships with aviation and digital media partners.

Tourism NZ has just harnessed Hollywood movie-maker James Cameron as the latest in a line of influencers who have thrown their voice behind the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.

- NZ Herald

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