Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry for New Zealand - and appetite from overseas travellers is increasing at an increasing rate, leaving some Kiwis to question whether we have the infrastructure to cope with the influx of guests. Next week about 300 international travel sellers will arrive here for the annual TRENZ 2017 conference; networking with hundreds of operators from with the New Zealand tourism industry. Ahead of the conference the Herald visited some of our most-loved tourist hot-spots to find out what pressures locals and hosts were under, and how tourists viewed our offerings, as part of our The Great Tourism Squeeze series. Today: Queenstown

Queenstown is a booming tourist centre - with tourists heading south to check out the priceless views, backdrops made famous during The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the succession of adventure activities ... and now increasingly as a leading honeymoon destination.

Seated next to me on my flight to Queenstown from Auckland are a young couple from Chennai, India.

Ankish and Dikshetha Jain are on their honeymoon. They expect to find a land that is beautiful, clean, friendly because that is what their friends have told them. Those friends - eight or nine couples - all honeymooned in Queenstown.

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That comes as no surprise to Max, a Frenchman who works in the town's hospitality sector who I meet later that day. Queenstown is marketed in India as the premier romantic destination, he says, "so most from there are young couples, newlyweds and some families".

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Max (he didn't want to give his full name in case his comments jeopardised his job) has no argument about the town's romantic appeal but it has an underbelly, he says. It is barely affordable for the foreign workers it relies on.

"I was lucky. Five years ago it was expensive but not crazy like now. I kind of got stuck here. You spend what you earn. In hospitality you start on the minimum wage."

Max, 31, doesn't think many middle class people live here.

"There are wealthy Kiwis in nice homes and workers in their 20s and 30s.

"I know my future won't be here. I love the place but I can't buy a house."

The Shotover Jet has become one of Queenstown's leading tourism attractions. Photo / Mike Scott
The Shotover Jet has become one of Queenstown's leading tourism attractions. Photo / Mike Scott

Jet boats full of thrillseekers tear along the Shotover River every 15 minutes. And it's supposed a quieter day.

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"This is the first day, where you could just turn up and get yourself on a boat," a driver says. "We've been absolutely slammed the past two years. Tourism is zooming."

The Copthorne Hotel is 98 per cent full. Most of the guests are from Asia and a portion of the staff are Chinese.

The region's booming economy has produced Auckland-size issues. Housing is now less affordable there than in Auckland and locals are comparing the traffic congestion to the Super City.

The Remarkables Range looming over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu - a stunning view enjoyed by a surging number of tourists every year. Photo / Mike Scott
The Remarkables Range looming over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu - a stunning view enjoyed by a surging number of tourists every year. Photo / Mike Scott

Parked cars line either side of the road from the Frankton roundabout all the way to the airport. When Adele was performing in Auckland, this free and linear carpark extended up the main road towards Queenstown.

A recent report by Colliers International described the shortage of hotel beds in Queenstown as "critical" and predicted hotels in the town and in Auckland would "run close to maximum occupancy" by November on current tourism trends.

Peak hotel capacity is beginning to push tourists towards towns such as Te Anau to find accommodation during the busiest periods, notes Jeff Grant, chairman of Milford Sound Tourism.

But it's a different story for low-paid workers.

NZ Ski, a major employer, tried renting houses in Cromwell and busing staff to Queenstown for work but found staff preferred to party in Queenstown when not working and are prepared to pay a big chunk of their income to do so and even to share a room with strangers.

Taking the plunge off Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown, has become a must-do for thousands of tourists each year. Photo / Mike Scott
Taking the plunge off Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown, has become a must-do for thousands of tourists each year. Photo / Mike Scott

The supply of rental accommodation has been squeezed by owners listing with Airbnb.

Restaurant worker Mauro Martins, 29, and his partner pay $340 a week for a room in a modest house a 10 minute walk from the wharf. From Brazil, they came several years ago for a campervan vacation "and we fell in love with the country, especially here".

"It's very expensive. You spend most of your money on living," said Martins.

Henrik de Blij responded to the accommodation squeeze he saw seven years ago by setting up Rent-A-Room Ltd, which manages a network of houses. De Blij says his company rents rooms only to singles, couples or friends but there is an emerging trend where beds are rented in shared rooms - "up to six to a room, people who don't know each other".

"Seven years ago places were empty in the shoulder season. Now, it's full all year round."