Regional tourism organisations are calling for local government to step up and start thinking long term about tourism.
Councils around the country are currently working on their long term plans for the next 10 years and Regional Tourism New Zealand says current ways of thinking about tourism development and planning are not fit for purpose.
Executive officer Charlies Ives says the tourism industry has grown exponentially over the last couple of decades and most of our communities are reaping the rewards of it with more retail, hospitality and infrastructure that meets the needs of both locals and visitors.
“But if we are going to develop a vibrant industry, we need to face up to the fact that increased growth in tourism will cause pressure on our regions and we have to anticipate these before they have a negative impact on our communities.
“Tourism – perhaps more than any other industry – touches the whole community and while most New Zealanders overall are still comfortable with the industry, we are already seeing early indicators of pressure such as overcrowding and negative reactions to freedom campers.
“These are warnings of the impact tourism can have on us, if we don’t have a planned, developed and managed approach.”
The industry is aware of the issues but we all need to engage with our Councils and communities so that while they are discussing their long term plans the benefits of tourism and the potential threats are a key focus. Mr Ives says some larger tourism regions have started developing long term strategies for tourism but it needs to be on the agenda of every single council around the country.
New Zealand currently hosts over 3.8 million international visitors per year but with arrival numbers increasing well over 10 percent per year, these numbers are expected to rise noticeably over summer.
The phenomenal growth in tourism has created more than 110,000 jobs directly related to tourism- that’s over six percent of the workforce. Domestic and international visitors spend around $34 billion a year.
There are 30 Regional Tourism organisations (RTOs) in New Zealand.