Local tourism operators are welcoming the introduction of a levy for tourists visiting New Zealand which will be split between tourism projects and conservation.
As of October 1, some visitors and passengers in transit must have an Electronic Travel Authority and pay an International Visitor and Conservation and Tourism Levy before travelling to New Zealand.
The travel authority costs between $9 and $12 while the levy costs $35. Both charges are valid for multiple visits and up to two years.
On the Immigration New Zealand website, the levy is described as a way for travellers to "contribute directly to the tourism infrastructure they use and to help protect and enhance the natural environment they will enjoy during their stay in New Zealand".
The levy is expected to collect about $80 million a year and the money will be split evenly between tourism projects and conservation.
However analysis in a paper from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment released last year estimated it could result in up to 20,000 fewer visitors and a loss of $70m in money spent here.
Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button welcomed the levy.
"The tourism-conservation levy seems like a really positive way to have visitors help fund some of the increased infrastructure and tourism needs.
"The price point is low enough that it won't put off visitors but collectively will bring in a significant amount for the Government."
Button said there was a need to improve tourism infrastructure and the levy was a way to fund those improvements.
"The flow-on effects of tourism indirectly inject a further $9.8 billion into our economy and create 188,000 jobs. Supporting this industry with something as simple as a $35-per-visitor levy has incredible potential to improve the infrastructure required to maintain such an important industry."
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said the levy could enhance New Zealand's international reputation rather than deter international visitors.
"Transparency to the visitor is really important. As long as that's there and we're clear about it and can say this is what it's being used for.
"I'm not convinced that amount of money is going to tip the scales if it's used in the right way. It can be an advantage if we're using it to improve our conservation efforts."
Cossar said the environment was a huge part of New Zealand's brand and image and he didn't think visitors would oppose the levy if it would enhance their experience.
Rotorua-based New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau supported the levy.
"Tourism is often our main export earner and forecast to grow. This as we all know, has and will put more pressure on infrastructure around New Zealand."
Tabuteau said the levy targeted long-haul international travellers and was a "minuscule part of the overall cost for our international tourists".
"The levy will ensure high volume tourist destinations such as Rotorua are better able to plan for improved visitor experiences and ensure our international visitors contribute to the infrastructure they use and help protect the natural environment they enjoy."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said tourism needed to be a greater priority for the Government and deserved more funding.
"New taxes on tourism are not the answers to the pressures being felt by the industry.
"I would like to see a significant increase in funding for tourism infrastructure and tourism projects. With budget surpluses and more discipline, the Government could do this right now," he said.
"Rotorua would benefit directly and deserves to get the lion's share of any new funding."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Central Government investment was needed and the levy allowed that to happen.
"High tourism numbers [are] putting considerable pressure on existing local facilities and infrastructure and creating the need for more.
"The burden of that is only increasing and can't be borne by local communities and ratepayers alone if we want to keep Rotorua as a beautiful place for both locals and visitors.
"My expectation would be that Rotorua, as a key tourism destination, would receive a proportionate share of the funding the levy will generate."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said comment about the levy had to come from the environment and tourism ministers.
You must request an Electronic Travel Authority if you are:
- Visiting or in transit from a country whose passport holders do not need a visa
- A cruise ship passenger, regardless of your nationality
- A permanent resident of Australia
- The ETA platform will be used as a collection tool for the International Visitor
Conservation and Tourism Levy.
- A way for travellers to contribute to tourism infrastructure.
- Most visitors to New Zealand will need to pay the IVL when applying for a visa or Electronic Travel Authority.