Prime Minister John Key has warned tourism operators that if they do not clean up drug use in their industry, the Government will do it for them by imposing mandatory drug testing.
Speaking to the Tourism Industry Association, Mr Key told operators New Zealand could not afford worldwide headlines such as those that followed the fatal Carterton hot air balloon crash in January and the 2010 plane crash near Fox Glacier which took nine lives. Mr Key said it was unacceptable cannabis was found in the system of the hot air balloon pilot and two skydiving instructors in the Fox Glacier crash, although it was not considered the cause of the accidents.
Mr Key said his simple message was that tourism operators were being given a chance to get on top of the problem - but if they did not, the Government would intervene.
Last month it put in place a requirement for companies to have stronger processes for dealing with drug and alcohol use, but stopped short of mandatory drug testing because of the difficulties in an industry dominated by very small businesses.
Mr Key said cases in which parents or family went on television overseas and said their child had died because of a lack of safety in New Zealand were damaging.
The adventure tourism industry was given an overhaul after a review which was ordered by Mr Key in 2009. That was prompted by Chris Jordan, the father of English tourist Emily Jordan who died while riverboarding in 2008, who wrote to Mr Key. Chris Coker - the father of Bradley Coker who died in the Fox Glacier crash - had also publicly criticised New Zealand's adventure industry.
Mr Key also briefed the TIA conference about his trip to Hollywood, where he will meet with the heads of major studios including Walt Disney, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros.
He said they should not underestimate the value of the spin-off from films to tourism, saying in many key markets - such as America and Japan - the association of New Zealand with the Lord of the Rings was more powerful than the All Blacks.
He agreed with Ann Sherry, the CEO of Australian cruise ship company Carnival, who told the conference New Zealand's tourism market needed to tap into cruise ship visits, which were a "rolled gold opportunity". She said cruise ships brought 174,000 visitors to New Zealand last year - the equivalent of 330 full A380 planes.By Claire Trevett @CTrevettNZH Email Claire