New Zealand’s new tourism minister has spelled out his goal to make Aotearoa, the Maori name for the country, one of the world’s top three travel destinations, targeting the global one per cent as visitors in the post-pandemic market.
But that’s potentially bad news for Australian backpackers and freedom campers who might be eyeing a self-drive or long low-cost holiday.
Stuart Nash, who was handed the tourism job in Jacinda Ardern’s post-election reshuffle, says he’s sick of seeing vans of tourists “pull over to the side of the road and s*** in our waterways”.
“I will ban the leasing or hiring out of vans to tourists that aren’t self- contained,” Mr Nash told Radio NZ.
“If you’re willing to pay for a campervan at least you have the ability to dispose of your excrement in a way that meets our sustainability goals and quite frankly our brand.”
In an address to the Tourism Industry Aotearoa Conference in Wellington, Mr Nash also foreshadowed extra costs being met by visitors.
“It is essential that the full cost of tourism is priced into the visitor experience,” he said.
“To the question of ‘who pays’ the answer is not ‘ratepayers and taxpayers in small New Zealand communities’.”
While Mr Nash’s comments carry a degree of flag-waving parochialism, there are genuine concerns locally about sustainability at some tourism hotspots.
Any visitor to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Coromandel’s Hot Water Beach or Queenstown establishments during peak season would agree.
The 53-year-old, who was a tough-talking police minister during Ms Ardern’s first term, is eyeing a post-COVID reset for New Zealand’s travel industry.
He backs the long-running “100 Per Cent Pure New Zealand” campaign, which highlights New Zealand’s natural beauty, as “absolutely brilliant”.
The Napier MP also says the COVID-enforced downturn will allow for a pivot of the government’s marketing efforts.
“We haven’t got tourists here at the moment. So we have an opportunity to re- define our global value proposition and market to those who add significant value to our country,” he said.
“I’m not saying we close the borders to those who don’t have a million dollars in their bank account … they will come and we’re not saying don’t come.
“What I’m saying is, all our marketing effort will go into high net-worth individuals who are looking for a piece of paradise at the moment as they sit in lockdown in New York or London or Berlin or Paris.
“They’re looking across and seeing us have 30,000 people without masks at a rugby game and saying ‘I want a piece of that’.”
The ideal tourist was named up as someone who flies “business class or premium economy, hires a helicopter around Franz Josef (Glacier on South Island’s West Coast) and eats at a top-end restaurant”.
“My ambition is that once lockdown is over and there’s a free flow of travellers across the world that we are in the top three destinations globally … not in terms of numbers but aspiration.”