7 May 2018

Tourism operators question industry's sustainability

2:40 pm on 7 May 2018

Pressure from growing tourist numbers has made sustainability a priority for those attending the country's annual tourism conference.

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Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis is due to speak at TRENZ on Thursday. Photo: RNZ

Hundreds of tourist operators, buyers and agents are due to descend on Dunedin for the TRENZ conference, the first time the city has hosted the event.

It starts this evening with a welcome function, with the programme starting tomorrow.

The conference is an opportunity for businesses to market themselves to media and agents from around the world, but attendees were also hoping to find solutions for some of the challenges the industry is facing.

ChristchurchNZ international trade and marketing manager Julia Hunt said tourism was "booming" but that came with new problems.

"It is about sustainable growth and ensuring we present our product within the New Zealand context and ensuring we [Canterbury] are in the picture amongst other regions.''

The number of overseas visitors had increased by 1.2 million visitors in just five years.

"That's huge and so how are we coping with that as a country, and how are we coping as individual regions," Ms Hunt said.

"How do we ensure the benefits of tourism are spread evenly and widely, and is that one way that we deal with the pressures?''

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts Photo: RNZ / Teresa Cowie

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts, whose organisation hosts the conference, said he wanted to hear from tourism minister Kelvin Davis that the government understood the industry's challenges.

"Do we have enough infrastructure in place, how do we manage people visiting at the peak times, can we improve regional dispersal, improve seasonality?" he said.

"The challenges are quite clear to us and the industry is keen to have a sustainable future.''

Mr Roberts said the industry also needed to do better at explaining the benefits of tourism to communities.

"It's not just that visitors come and stay in accommodation or undertake a tourism activity. Your local cafes, your pharmacy, maybe even something like your local dentist are all in business and providing services in your community because of those visitors coming to your community.''

Chris Adams of Fiordland Jet said there needed to be checks in place to ensure New Zealand was not getting more tourists than the country could handle.

He wanted reassurances from industry leaders that New Zealand was being marketed correctly.

"A lot of the freedom campers aren't really helping the beauty of the [Fiordland] area where they're staying, so we just hope we have a tourism industry that's sustainable.''

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis told RNZ that he expected to get asked about government support for the sector.

He was keen to talk to attendees about how the industry and local and central government could do more to make the most of the visitors coming here, he said.

TRENZ runs until Friday.

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