Bed tax for tourists suggested

By John Maslin

1 comment
FREE AND EASY: Tourism experts agree something needs to be done to recover costs from freedom campers. PHOTO/FILE
FREE AND EASY: Tourism experts agree something needs to be done to recover costs from freedom campers. PHOTO/FILE

Getting tourists to contribute more to help fund much-needed infrastructure at some destinations is something that needs to be investigated - but cautiously, according to Whanganui tourism experts.

The Government is open to new ways of raising money from tourists to help pay for infrastructure, and last week Prime Minister John Key announced a $12 million fund for small communities to build toilets, signs and vehicle parks to cope with freedom campers in particular.

But Mr Key, who is also tourism minister, said the industry was debating new ways of raising money from the surging numbers of foreign visitors for bigger projects.

One option was bed taxes, which had been discussed as an option for places such as Queenstown, where infrastructure is struggling with visitor numbers.

In a rare move, the Government allowed Stewart Island to impose a $5 visitor tax. These differential charging regimes are commonplace overseas.

Lyn Cheyne, Whanganui and Partners promotions and marketing manager, said it was valid to look for revenue alternatives where further support or resources were needed.

"The key to introducing something like this is ensuring that those paying understand and accept that they are contributing to the value of the experience and protecting what could become destroyed otherwise," Ms Cheyne told the Chronicle.

She said most consumers of any product or service were willing to pay more if they saw the value in return.

"A set fee, like a bed tax, with no apparent value to a visitor, may not be received with the same understanding or provide false expectations in the tourism market," she said.

"It's a case-by-case scenario, as each region and its unique resources will result in different solutions," she said.

"Whanganui is growing its tourism market, and the smart thing to do is to ensure we plan ahead to accommodate the increasing number of 'mobile' visitors, such as campervan tourists, to ensure sufficient parking, dump stations, toilets and information.

"I know Whanganui District Council is already considering these," Ms Cheyne said.

But Rory Smith, owner of Tamara Travellers Lodge in the city, balked at the idea of imposing special visitor taxes.

"GST means international tourists are paying a packet in taxes anyway. And I've never been a fan of any sort of bed tax either," he said.

He said freedom campers could be forced to pay for services by having their hire vehicle movements tracked by GPS.

Mr Smith said vehicle hire companies would track the freedom campers and, at the end of their visit, they would be charged for where they stopped.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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