Bring on the big spenders

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Queenstown needs to focus on keeping big-spending tourists for longer as long-haul flight costs increase, the Green Party co-leader says. 

Russel Norman, in Queenstown earlier this month for a pre-election debate, says the world is starting to see the beginning of climate change pressure on carbon-emitting long-haul flights. 

From the start of next year, all flights into and out of the European Union will be included in its Emissions Trading System, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The United Kingdom is also charging depart­ing fliers a green tax called Airport Pass­enger Duty. 

Norman: “That’s just the beginning and it’s only going to increase with time. 

“More cash per tourist is really what has to be the long-term strategy – because it’s not just Queenstown, it’s the whole New Zealand economy. 

“We’re just going to have to focus on yield more than probably we have – rather than numbers. If we go down this path whereby the cost of the flights increases over time then how long they stay here, what they do, how much money they spend becomes quite important,” Norman says. 

Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt says climate change pressure on long-haul flying isn’t too concerning yet. 

“You’d have to be honest and say at the moment the pressure is not significant. That’s doesn’t mean to say obviously there’ll be more interest in that as time progresses.” 

Everitt says the UK’s Airport Pass­enger Duty is on his radar. 

“It’s a tax that increases the further you fly … it disadvantages the countries that are fartherest away.” 

It’s also on the radar of Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key. 

During his Queenstown visit last week, Key said: “We’re concerned about inappropriate taxes getting a hold in places like the UK and getting extended to other places.” 

Key says National’s tourism strategy focuses on attracting more high-quality visitors and encouraging them to spend more while here – as well as pumping the country as a film destination.