From any perspective tourism is on a roll. For the second year in a row, the industry has earned more than dairying.

Tourism is now a $34.7 billion powerhouse driving the national economy. In two years, expenditure has grown by a staggering 23.8 per cent. One third of this figure comes 3.5 million international visitors, and the rest from domestic travellers.

The Government's books have been fattened by this rapid growth, with the sector contributing $2.8 billion in GST revenue in the year to March 2016. About one in eight of the New Zealand workforce - some 332,000 people - are employed, directly or indirectly, in the sector.

All the projections suggest tourism growth will continue, with untapped markets in Asia and South America providing new sources of visitors. Low international fuel costs should extend the flow of travellers with more airlines delivering long haul passengers.


Tourists wary of security scares in Europe and border delays in North America may prefer Downunder destinations to the Danube and Lake Taupo to Donald Trump's United States.

The country's brand as a safe, postcard-pretty and accessible destination - after the daylong flight that is - means lots of visitors knocking on our door.

The boom has caught the country by surprise, created growing pains, and reinforced the need for the industry to work together.

In Queenstown, many of those with hospitality jobs have moderate incomes but pay high rents. In Tongariro National Park, the queue of hikers tempted by alpine walks threatens to spoil the experience.

In Otago, locals complain of the driving habits of visitors. The Department of Conservation's Great Walks draw visitors by the busload but lose money by the truckload as expenses outstrip income. These, by and large, are niggles which can be addressed without massive investment but they should not be allowed to fester.

Surveys of tourism perceptions have found that the number of New Zealanders who believe tourism is putting too much pressure on the country continues to grow.

The Conservation Act is 30 years old and would benefit from an overhaul. Self-drive rental vehicles and campervans for instance can avoid the fees DoC charges visitors to its estate.

Despite the rising value of nature as an alternative to medieval cities and ancient monuments, the country's priceless outdoor assets must seem like bargains to overseas visitors who access them for the same price as the holidaying New Zealand family.

If that same family finds the queues getting too long, existing niggles could become noisome.


New Zealanders know that tourism is now a foundation of the economy. But surveys of tourism perceptions have found that the number of New Zealanders who believe tourism is putting too much pressure on the country continues to grow.

While still in the minority, more and more of us think we get too many tourists, and many blame the industry for strains on infrastructure and traffic congestion.

Tourism Minister Paula Bennett, while concerned some are getting "a bit whingey" about the industry, is expected to announce extra spending in this month's Budget to address pressure points.

The funds need to help protect the golden age of travel, and the benefits it delivers New Zealand, from becoming tarnished.