Otago Daily Times

A ‘bet­ter class' of tourist?

- Travel · Arbeidersparty · New Zealand · Queenstown · Laos · Queenstown · Wanaka

WHEN freshly minted Min­is­ter of Tourism Stu­art Nash made his pro­nounce­ments this week on the fu­ture of the sec­tor, it seemed like a no­tion from the more priv­i­leged Right than from a Labour Party MP.

Speaking at the Tourism Sum­mit Aotearoa, Mr Nash laid down the gaunt­let to the sup­port­ers of free­dom camp­ing and said he would ban the rental of vans which are not self­con­tained.

He also ex­pounded on the need to col­lar a bet­ter class of tourist, to aim at the ‘‘su­per­wealthy’’ once the borders are re­opened.

No less a hote­lier than Basil Fawlty would have been cheer­ing on the ‘‘no riff­raff here’’ vi­sion from the new min­is­ter.

It is clear Mr Nash wants cash, not trash. In his opin­ion, he wants the type of tourist who ‘‘flies busi­ness class or pre­mium econ­omy, hires a he­li­copter, does a tour round Franz Josef and then eats at a high­end restau­rant’’, ac­cord­ing to RNZ.

In other words, peo­ple with money to burn.

Care­fully putting the rose­tinted spec­ta­cles to one side, how many visi­tors will re­al­is­ti­cally be in this group? How long would they stay? Is it re­ally the ‘‘Kiwi’’ way to pan­der for the rich and fa­mous at the ex­pense of real peo­ple, the back­pack­ers and fam­i­lies who want to come here?

And will this ul­tra­priv­i­leged group col­lec­tively leave a much larger car­bon foot­print on the planet and on these shores than tra­di­tional visi­tors by their buzzing about in he­li­copters, zoom­ing about in lux­ury cars, trav­el­ling at the sharp end of the plane and eat­ing the most ex­pen­sive cuts of meat in top restau­rants?

The Covid­19 pan­demic has had an ap­palling im­pact on the New Zealand tourism in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly on its work­force and cen­tres like Queen­stown and Wanaka which rely on mil­lions of vis­i­tor dol­lars each year.

No won­der, then, that a sat­ur­nine view of the fu­ture prevails. But there is one slightly ben­e­fi­cial out­come, which is that the hia­tus al­lows in­dus­try mem­bers, the Govern­ment and lo­cals to pause and think what we can do bet­ter when

New Zealand re­joins the rest of the world.

While Mr Nash's dream does sound rather hi­fa­lutin, there will be many Ki­wis happy to see the end of free­dom campers who feel obliged to defe­cate in pub­lic places. Do­ing away with vans which do not have toi­let fa­cil­i­ties would be a good start.

Us­ing lan­guage which the creme de la creme Mr Nash wants to tar­get might not ap­prove of, the min­is­ter came up with the best quote of the week, when he told Morn­ing Re­port free­dom campers ‘‘pull over to the side of the road and they shit in our wa­ter­ways’’.

In­stead, he wants New Zealand to host tourists who know how to defe­cate cor­rectly.

A self­con­tained van would al­low free­dom campers to dis­pose of their ex­cre­ment ‘‘in a way that meets our sus­tain­abil­ity goals and quite frankly our brand’’.

The value of high­end tourists, and how to propo­si­tion them, has been seen as a way for­ward for New Zealand tourism for at least the past 15 years. But at a time of low air­fares, pre­Covid that is, there has never been a lack of tourists from the other end of the spec­trum vis­it­ing this coun­try, bringing in more than $500 mil­lion a year in re­cent times.

Un­for­tu­nately, New Zealan­ders have been forced to bear some of the costs of tourism on the environmen­t and on in­fra­struc­ture, ef­fec­tively sub­si­dis­ing in­ter­na­tional tourists.

But is it naive to think that if we can get the big spenders here dis­burs­ing their largesse from one end of the coun­try to the other, we can use that money to pro­vide more ba­sic toi­let and rub­bish and re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties so the free­dom campers also come here in droves?

Rather than fo­cus on just the fat cats, we need to at­tract younger visi­tors who may be trav­el­ling on a shoe­string bud­get, who are more likely to get the word out there through so­cial me­dia and their friends about what a great place New Zealand is to visit.

Af­ter all, in years to come they may be back here as fat cats them­selves.

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