Sustainability priority in tourism
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has thrown his support behind a push for more sustainable tourism, and promised government funding to improve the sector’s infrastructure.
Davis made his first major ministerial speech at the Tourism Summit in Wellington, an annual event that sets priorities for reaching the industry goal of earning $41 billion a year by 2025.
In listing his priorities, Davis said he also saw tourism as an opportunity for Ma¯ori to develop businesses based on their history and culture.
The Government would look at funding for the Department of Conservation and local government, but it was essential any funding changes provided ‘‘the best bang for our buck’’.
Although parameters for the $1b regional growth fund announced by the new Government were still being worked through, this was another avenue for supporting tourism infrastructure.
Davis said that if industry was to reach its $41b goal it needed to address the challenges of growth, and it was essential that this occurred in socially and environmentally sustainable ways.
That included decent jobs paying higher wages, protecting the environment and addressing climate change. He applauded industry body Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s launch of sustainability goals.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said the focus on sustainability was designed to ensure tourists had a great experience, without their presence having an adverse effect on local communities and the environment.
TIA had set eight sustainability goals, ranging from keeping New Zealanders happy with the level of tourism activity, to ensuring tourism employers paid fair wages to all their staff.
‘‘We want a New Zealand where our economy, people and the environment are better off because tourism exists,’’ he said.
In a panel discussion on sustainability at the summit, low wages were identified as a key issue.
Nga¯i Tahu Tourism has 11 businesses and is moving towards introducing the living wage for its employees.
Deputy Kaiwhakahaere for Te Runanga o Nga¯i Tahu Lisa Tumahai said they had asked their companies to come up with a transition plan.
But she said the difficulty was with joint ventures where they could ask, but not compel, payment of the living wage.
Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder said he was appalled at the way some tourism operators were exploiting their staff.
He said there had been a lot of debate as to whether the sustainability pledge should include a commitment to paying a living wage. The feeling was it was going ‘‘too far, too fast,’’ but he believed the industry would ‘‘get there’’.
The writer attended the Tourism Summit with assistance from Tourism Industry Aotearoa.