We only want the wealthy?

Imagine the uproar if a National or Act minister suggested New Zealand should be the preserve of only wealthy tourists.

. . . Nash said too often ratepayers and taxpayers have picked up the bill of the impact of tourism on infrastructure and the environment.

He said the full cost of tourism needs to be priced into the visitor experience.

“New Zealanders should not be subsidising international visitors to the extent that we have done in the recent past,” he said.

“I have asked officials for innovative solutions to minimise the costs to New Zealanders of tourism. This includes ensuring visitors pay for the privilege of participating in the New Zealand experience.” . . 

Isn’t that what the border tax and GST do?

“We must attract high value and high spending visitors who buy into our own vision of sustainability. We must therefore deliver high quality visitor experiences and exceed our visitors expectations,” he said.

Nash said some freedom campers have abused New Zealanders’ renowned hospitality.

“I firmly believe that the low-spending but high-cost tourist is not the future of our tourism industry.”

He is right about the problem. Some people have abused our hospitality but how would he keep the unwanted ones out?

Drafting out the low spenders as they come in won’t work. It might be possible to find out how much they’ve spent on pre-paid bookings but not how much more they’ll spend while they’re here.

Could he be planning to vet what tourists have spent before they leave the country and charge those who haven’t spent enough? No.

One of the Minister’s plans is to ban vans that aren’t self-contained :

“We get all these vans driving round at the moment that are not self-contained, so if the driver or the passenger wants to go to the toilet – we all know examples of this – they pull over to the side of the road and they shit in our waterways.

People in cars and on bikes can be caught short too even though it’s rare to travel more than an hour or two between public loos. But it’s not those travelling from A to B who have caused most of the problems, it’s the ones who stop and camp where there are no facilities.

“So what I am saying for example is a first cut, these vans that are hired out … we will look at regulations to stop this, you will not be able to hire a van that is not self-contained. . . 

This won’t stop people travelling in cars and pitching tents where they will. Nor will it stop people buying cheap vans to camp in and there will be plenty of them if rental companies are banned from hiring them out.

“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.”

Does he think lower net worth people won’t be exposed to the advertising and be tempted to come too?

There’s no doubt that the steep increase in tourism has had some very unpleasant consequences and some of that was due to freedom campers who didn’t dispose of their rubbish and waste properly.

Some councils tried to mitigate that by providing freedom camping sites but not all those travelling in vehicles that weren’t self-contained used them and camping ground owners were justified in objecting to their rates subsidising their competitors in this way.

The Covid-19 induced collapse in overseas tourism has provided time to work out solutions to the problems caused by freedom campers and the Minister is unlikely to find opposition to his desire to solve them.

But an only-the-wealthy-are-welcome campaign should not be part of the plan.

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