New Zealand has a problem: its tourism industry is growing too quickly

Photo: Vaughan Brookfield/ 100% Pure New Zealand Facebook.

New Zealand may have become synonymous with the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but the nation has also been a huge drawcard for overseas travellers as a “clean, green” adventure playground with many flocking to visit sites such as Milford Sound and the Abel Tasman National Park.

But the speed of growth comes with problems.

“In a way it is growing faster than we really want. It is probably more sustainable and more manageable to be growing at a rate half of what we are currently growing,” Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler told Fairfax.

Australia is currently New Zealand’s largest inbound tourism market thanks to its proximity, making up nearly half of all visitors.

There were 1,290,192 international arrivals from Australia at the end of the year, a 4.1% increase from the previous year with Australian visitor arrivals forecasted to reach 1.64 million in 2018.

China followed closely behind Australia with 315,248 international visitors, an incredible 29.5% increase on the previous year. The rise was driven by an increase in flight capacity from the two direct carriers, China Southern Airlines and Air New Zealand.

“What we don’t want over the next five to 10 years is to have a great economic win but a social and an environmental negative [from tourism],” he said.

“So there are conversations going on quite consciously saying we want to manage the shape of that from where that is going. We have this massive peak over the summer period. That creates more pressure in the system. We want to distil that out over the full year.”

Tourism NZ is currently working on attracting high-yielding customers from North America and China who contributed to a a $1.1 billion increase in tourist spending last year and increasing onshore spending rather than increasing the number of arrivals.

The tourism body is also strengthening its efforts to create a clean, green brand for the country with its 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.

“Unquestionably the most powerful thing that New Zealand offers in the world in terms of reasons to visit is the landscape, scenery and environment,” said Bowler. “While they will visit and discover activities and culture and people, the thing that gets on the short list is landscape.”

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