NZ tourism strikes long-haul snag

By Owen Hembry

The good news is that international tourism is booming - the bad news is that selling clean, green New Zealand could start looking hypocritical, according to Larry Dwyer, Qantas professor of travel and tourism economics at the University of New South Wales.

Dwyer, who was a keynote speaker at last week's Tourism Industry Conference, said international tourism would continue to grow, rising to nearly 1.6 billion people by 2020 - 2.5 times the volume of the 1990s.

Ministry of Tourism data released last month predicts international visitor arrivals to New Zealand will rise by on average 4 per cent a year to reach 3.2 million people in seven years time, while expenditure would grow even faster by 7.4 per cent, hitting $10.5 billion a year.

A revamped 100 per cent Pure New Zealand advertising campaign unveiled last week will run on televisions, cinemas, cell-phones and computers around the world promoting the country as the young, clean and green choice.

However, the need for many people to fly long-haul to get here, with global concerns about environmental pollution rising, could make it harder to sell that image..

"It does [make it harder] because they can be accused of hypocrisy," Dwyer said. "It is going to be a difficult marketing exercise for them to address that, increasingly so."

Nearly 33 per cent of New Zealand's 2.5 million international visitors for the year ending July came from the Americas or Europe.

Tourists have shown growing interest in the environmental impact of their holidays but so far appear not to have let this affect decisions to fly long-haul.

However, the persistence of the message could start to change the actions of tourists.

"You have various ministers in London saying that it's immoral tofly, or at least to fly very often," Dwyer said.

"As the publicity that is attachedto climate change captures the imagination of more and more peopleI think there will be a change in theattitude.

"So it'll become not just that they mouth the motherhood statements about climate change being important but I do think that they will also in their activities factor that in."

Environmental sustainability will be a key plank of the updated New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2015, dueto be released in November.

The Minister of Tourism, Damien O'Connor, said at the Tourism Industry Conference that the draft strategy made sustainable business practice central to the future vision for the industry.

"The strategy will provide direction to boost prosperity and attract ongoing investment, while taking a leading role in protecting and enhancing the environment," O'Connor said.

Other key elements of the strategy included local communities, seasonality and domestic tourism.

Dwyer said triple bottom line accounting would be a step in the right direction towards getting social and environmental issues on the agenda.

"What's not measured is notmanaged," he said.

The uptake of triple bottom line accounting - measuring environmental, social as well as financial performance - had been slower in tourism than other sectors, possibly because of the number small operators.

Success in tourism would be increasingly measured by the level of yield per tourist, with people not necessarily looking for the cheapest option but rather value for money.

"It's an interesting tension because you have the mega trend of globalisation and at the same time you have these local communities wishing to assert their local identities."

"Often I don't think the industry does a very good job in informing the locals about what's in it for them," he said.

KEEP ON COMING

* The Ministry of Tourism predicts international visitor arrivals to New Zealand will rise by 4 per cent a year.

* In seven years time, 3.2 million people are expected to visit annually.

* Expenditure is expected to rise by 7.4 per cent a year to an annual figure of $10.5 billion.

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