The tourism industry supports a new tax for international visitors – as long as it is used to enhance visitor experiences.
Peak industry body Tourism Industry Aotearoa says that while tourism operators broadly introduction of an International Visitor Levy, they want the extra revenue to fund industry-focused projects – and not just be a replacement for existing government spending.
Making the organisation’s submission on the levy to the government this week, CEO Chris Roberts said the industry is wary of further costs being imposed and argued no further taxes, such as bed taxes or regional levies, should be contemplated.
The levy would see most international visitors, excluding Australian and Pacific Island residents, required to pay a levy of between $25 and $35 before entering New Zealand, raising an estimated $57 to 80 million in the first year. The main collection method will be a new Electronic Travel Authority.
Mr Roberts says tourism has experienced “remarkable” growth in the last five years, creating jobs and new business opportunities and significantly increasing the Government’s tax take.
But, he warned, the “pace of growth has also exposed decades of under-investment in infrastructure by central and local government”.
“The IVL will provide another source of revenue for the government and it’s critical that it is used to make a demonstrable difference to our visitors.”
Mr Roberts says a “planned, coordinated approach to tourism investment” is vital to New Zealand, with scant detail on the levy design and allocation process currently available.
TIA suggests the money should be invested in five areas: the public conservation estate; communities with high visitor to resident ratios; local and mixed-use infrastructure; tourism research and development; and building tourism business capability.
“A comprehensive global PR campaign will be crucial, to educate our visitors about why they are being charged to come to New Zealand and where their money will be spent,” said Mr Roberts.
“There are serious risks to New Zealand’s reputation if the introduction of the ETA is rushed or poorly implemented.”