Perceptions that New Zealand is becoming expensive for visitors isn't putting them off, says Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis.

However, it was a "concern" that Kiwis were finding it pricey to have a holiday in parts of this country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Trenz tourism event, Davis said that was making it hard for New Zealanders to have a holiday in the main centres.

''That is a concern - that's why the whole emphasis on getting into the regions is good, '' he said.


Regions such as the Hokianga or Bay or Islands were cheaper than the cities. Latest forecasts showed the number of overseas visitors would grow by 37 per cent during the next five years.

''New Zealanders will say New Zealand is expensive [but] it doesn't seem to be putting off people from coming here if we're predicting 5.1 million,'' Davis said.

Visitors would be prepared to pay for facilities - including toilets - if they were good value.

''Going to Europe I remember paying two euros ($3.42) to go to the toilet - you just do it,'' he said.

''I think that visitors won't think twice about it as long as it's justified and about maintaining facilities.''

Some overseas buyers spoken to by the Herald at the Trenz event said they had noticed prices climbing, particularly for hotel accommodation.

Davis said that while many Kiwis questioned the country's capacity to sustain tourism growth, he believed "we can and we will".

The Government was consulting on a tourism levy to help pay for infrastructure and other facilities that were under pressure.


"It's a problem at peak times – but the negative perceptions persist and I don't want our environmental and tourist reputation damaged."

Overcrowding, and the resulting environmental problems, were the opposite of how New Zealand saw itself as a destination, and how it wanted to be seen and remembered by international visitors.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says the forecast growth in tourism will make the challenges more acute. Picture / NZME
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says the forecast growth in tourism will make the challenges more acute. Picture / NZME

"The forecast growth in tourism will make the challenges more acute, and we risk a hardening of New Zealanders' attitudes towards tourism."

It was fair that visitors should pay for the facilities and the services they used and to help maintain the conservation estate, he said

"There are several issues to figure out; who to include, who to exclude, how to collect, where to collect, how much, who it should go to and so on."

Opponents have pointed to difficulties with a tax on frequent business visitors from Australia who may not make much of an impact on facilities and returning Kiwis.

Davis said there could be a levy next year.

"The reality is that we're going to have 5.1 million visitors arriving on our shores in five years time and we need to find ways to pay for the infrastructure and everything they use. We're developing a mandate for that.''

National's tourism spokesman Todd McClay said he was reserving judgement on the new levy until he had seen details but said it could not become a ''slush fund'' to back other government projects.

Davis said the Government's Provincial Growth Fund was an opportunity for tourism operators.

Already $35 million had been allocated to tourism-related projects and following discussions with cabinet colleague Shane Jones, Davis encouraged operators to get proposals before the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

"He's saying go and get the projects and ideas in front of him."

Freedom camping rules were also being reviewed.

"Some of our policy settings, such as the Freedom Camping Act, were developed at a time when New Zealand was focused on attracting more visitors, so [they] need to be looked at in light of the high visitor growth we have experienced and our new reality."