17 Dec 2018

Tourism: majority unaware it's NZ's biggest earner, survey finds

7:57 pm on 17 December 2018

A new survey shows more than half of New Zealanders don't know tourism is the country's biggest earner or how many tourists visit each year.

Chinese tourists

Around 3.8 million tourists are visiting New Zealand each year, prompting concern about pressures on the country's infrastructure. Photo: RNZ

The findings of the bi-annual Mood of Nation Research were released this afternoon as part of a Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Industry Aotearoa collaboration.

More than 1000 people were surveyed across the country to find out their perceptions on international tourism.

About 95 percent say that it is good for the country, however, only 18 percent can pinpoint how many tourists visit New Zealand each year, down from 26 percent in March - approximately 3.8 million tourists are attracted each year.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said there had been a lot of hard work to improve perceptions of international tourism.

"There's a whole lot of initiatives that are being taken to ensure the benefits of tourism are spread across the country to all our communities; we're looking after the environment; we're giving the visitors a great time and everyone gets to benefit from a visitor industry," Mr Roberts said.

But he acknowledged more work needed to be done to address tourism issues.

"In general, New Zealanders don't understand tourism is our biggest export earner, such a huge part of our economy. They struggle a bit when asked how many visitors actually come here," Mr Roberts said.

"What we do know is that most see tourism as a great thing for the country."

The top concern for New Zealanders is tourism pressure followed by accommodation shortages, environmental damage and increased traffic congestion.

Of those surveyed, about 47 percent believe the predicted international tourist growth is too much.

That's a three percent increase from last November.

Tourist crowding around a kea.

The tourism industry is aiming to be worth $41 billion within the next six years. Photo: RNZ Insight / Belinda McCammon

By 2025, the industry is aiming to grow to an annual tourism revenue of $41 billion. It was recently valued at $39.1 billion.

Only 10 percent of New Zealanders know that tourism is the country's top export earner.

About one fifth of the people surveyed don't believe the government and industry are taking action to address tourism pressures.

Mr Roberts said that was not the case. "The industry and the government are recognising that some regions are feeling under pressure and they need more help and more support to make sure tourism delivers benefits, not just challenges for them," he said.

"There's no silver bullet or no one answer for managing something as complex as a tourism system, but there's a whole lot of initiatives being taken."

The initiatives include the Tiaki - Care for New Zealand and Responsible Camping campaigns launched earlier this year with the industry pushing for a more sustainable approach to tourism.

New Zealanders appreciate the benefits of tourism also

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall said the industry was working hard to make sure tourism added more to the country than it took away.

"As we head into our peak visitor season, Kiwis are telling us they can see the wider benefits tourism brings to their communities through local employment, local amenities and services as well as stronger businesses and economic growth," Mr England-Hall said.

The perceptions that tourists place too much pressure has stabilised at 39 percent following a significant jump from 18 to 40 percent between December 2015 and November last year.

Queenstown and Auckland topped the list of places people perceived are under more pressure than others.

"It's no secret that some regions are feeling pressure and need support to ensure that tourism enriches their environment, community and the people who live there," he said.

"On the flipside, we have regions that are keen to attract more international visitors."

The Provincial Growth and Tourism Infrastructure funds alongside other initiatives were having an impact on the ground, Mr England-Hall said.

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