New Zealand moots hiking visitor tourism levy to £52

The New Zealand government is considering hiking its levy on visitors to NZ$100 (£52) as the country reopens to tourists.

The government’s Department of Conservation also plans to ban cruise ships from Milford Sound, tear up its airstrip and set tourism quotas for its leading natural attraction.

New Zealand introduced an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of NZ$35 (£18) in July 2019. Professor Susanne Becken of the Department of Conservation said: “This was predicted to raise NZ$50 million in the first five years. However, visitors stopped during the pandemic.”

She told a recent Tourism Society Scotland symposium at Edinburgh Napier University: “Now the discussion is about increasing this to maybe NZ$100.”

Becken insisted: “The levy is not going away because it is important visitors contribute. Mainstream tourism is really extractive.”

She noted “sustainable tourism is about doing no harm” but suggested that what is needed from the sector is “regenerative tourism” that is “restorative” of the environment and communities. Becken argued: “There is a lot of discussion about what is a ‘high-value visitor’, but that is not a good way to look at it. The system needs to be designed in a way that visitors make a difference.”

She added: “We have a problem with ‘last chance tourism’, for example with the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not helpful and it’s not a long-term solution. It would be better to market tourism as helping ‘restore’ a destination.”

Becken outlined the Department of Conservation’s plans for Milford Sound on the west coast of South Island as part of work to develop a ‘values-based tourism system’, noting: “It is in an environmentally fragile region and has suffered overtourism.”

A new scheme will set visitor quotas and require bookings to visit Milford Sound. The airstrip will be torn up and cruise ships barred to “symbolise the shift”.

Becken acknowledged it would be a challenge to maintain momentum as tourism resumes, saying: “New Zealand is opening. Businesses are keen to get visitors in.”

“Can we maintain all this? Can we make sure it is not either tourism or the environment? Only the future will tell.”

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