By Tess Brunton of RNZ
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash is considering raising the levy overseas tourists pay to enter the country, and says he wants tourists to be spending about $300 a day.
Earlier today, Nash outlined his vision for the future of the industry including how to make tourism more sustainable.
He also wants to make sure New Zealanders don't have to pick up the cost of hosting international visitors, which could mean differential prices at some tourist spots.
Nash told RNZ the $35 levy foreign tourists paid would have to rise, but he would not be drawn on how big an increase he was considering.
He also said people who visited New Zealand and bought vans which were not self-contained and spent as little as $10 a day were "not really the sort of tourists we want".
"Now it doesn't mean that we're going to close the borders of course, for those who spend $10 a day ... but those who will be targeted will be those who spend money in our communities, and what we call high value tourists," he said.
"There is a difference between high value and wealthy, of course. Some people for whom New Zealand is a dream destination that saved up for this their whole life, they're coming over here to have a wonderful experience and we will deliver on it. So please don't confuse high value with high net worth or high wealth."
Nash said the $300 estimate included accommodation. "You know, what I'm talking about is people who are coming into our communities, spending money, enjoying themselves, adding value."
He said he had been told by airlines people who spent as little as $10 a day were unlikely to visit New Zealand in the near future anyway as air travel would be too expensive.
Big talk, but businesses want action
Queenstown businesses said Nash's new vision was a promising game plan, but they wanted to see action.
Nash, speaking at a tourism policy school in Queenstown today, said his plans included a shake up of pricing for visitors that could see fees added to national parks, and flagged work on a nationwide bed tax.
He was clear - business as usual was not an option for the tourism industry.
His vision set out four main areas to tackle - he wanted to see tourism become more sustainable, ensure Aotearoa was at the top of the world's most aspirational destinations, for New Zealanders not to pick up the tab of hosting visitors and to have more partnership between the Government and the industry.
Nash has raised similar points before, but the details include the potential for Australians to pay the $35 tourist tax and adding fees to national parks for international visitors.
He also flagged that work was under way on a nationwide bed tax, which he said Queenstown had shown an appetite for.
"I am doing some work on this, but not just for Queenstown... nationwide. We're trying to find a way that would make it easier for councils to make their own determination around whether they wanted to do this or not.
"But we wouldn't introduce the bed tax ourselves."
Nash floats different pricing for locals vs tourists
Nash was also interested in attractions offering different prices for locals.
"A number of us have travelled internationally and we all know that most countries actually have an oversea's visitor differential and a local differential. There are some places here that do," Nash said.
"But I would like to see more of that because... I think we really under-value what we have in this country and we do so at our own peril."
Aotearoa could be smarter about targeting international tourists while at the same time ensuring New Zealanders were not deterred from attractions, he said.
iFly Indoor Skydiving Queenstown managing director Matt Wong said he was not on board with differential pricing.
"I think it would be extremely negative. I think it would be seen as favouritism for domestic versus international, and it would showcase that internationals were less respected than our domestic and Kiwi market," Wong said.
"I think all markets deserve the same respect. Anyone that's spending money in my business is a favourite friend of mine and it doesn't matter where you're from."
He wanted Nash to acknowledge the industry had good bones and something to offer.
"I think if he actually just said something positive about the industry for once, it might actually help with the public perception and the current disdain that the public has, or the misinformation they have about our industry.
"Some of that might actually be relieved if the Minister of Tourism actually said something a bit more positive."
NZSki general manager Paul Anderson was encouraged to hear a solid vision for the future.
"But I think as an industry what we're really interested in is delivery," Anderson said.
"So he had a great four point plan ... for the industry I think we'd say enough of the platitudes, let's actually see what the Government is going to deliver in terms of infrastructure, in terms of speeding up the bureaucratic process to help businesses who operate in this industry."
While he believed tourists should pay to access national parks, he was not too sure about charging different prices for international visitors to locals.
Anderson said it would depend on how it was implemented and executed.
Flame Bar and Grill owner Lou McDowell initially planned to organise a rally, but instead had an unexpected meeting with the minister.
She walked away feeling a bit more positive.
"There is some hope for some businesses in Queenstown that might get some help from the Government. Some will survive, some probably won't. But a glimmer of hope for some businesses."
Nash focuses on hardest-hit communities
Nash said his first priority was to support those communities most affected by the loss of overseas tourists.
"I am deeply concerned about the situation unfolding in communities like Queenstown, the West Coast, Fiordland, MacKenzie District and Kaikōura that are so reliant upon international tourism. I am considering structural and targeted initiatives to support some of the worst affected communities," he said.
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said some businesses were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
Stokes said the path Nash presented was consistent with the direction the chamber wanted to see the Government head in.
"It's positive that we're going to hear some more detail around targeted and structural interventions within the next couple of weeks and that's what our businesses will really be hanging their hat on," Stokes said.
A recent business confidence survey painted a grim picture for the Queenstown Lakes.
"All the economic indicators are that the next three to four months are going to be the hardest yet so there is a lot of pain still to come so the sooner we can get that targeted, focused support the better."
While Nash's vision for tourism is on the table, the industry will have to wait a bit longer to find out what support is on the cards.