PM will stay on as tourism minister

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Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he’ll stay on as Tourism Minister if National remains in power after the election.

Key, who has held the tourism portfolio for the past three years and always indicated he’d like to keep it, made the official announcement today (Friday) in Queenstown at the Crowne Plaza hotel. 

Key says having him in the role has been an important statement for the sector and the country. 

“If we’re the government and I continue to be Prime Minister, I’ll continue to hold the portfolio.” 

Key says it opens up all sorts of opportunities and that his famous appearance on David Letterman’s hugely popular US chat show probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been in both roles. 

Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt, who attended the announcement, says he believes having the Prime Minister in charge of tourism gives the sector priority and bolsters support for Tourism New Zealand. 

“It’s good to see the budget’s safe,” Everitt says. 

Key says National will work hard to ensure tourism – the country’s second largest export earner – continues to add to the growth of the Kiwi economy. 

“Our focus will be on attracting more high-quality international visitors and encouraging them to spend more money while in our country. We’ll also continue to promote New Zealand as a film production destination.” 

Instrumental in saving The Hobbit 

Key was instrumental in keeping director Sir Peter Jackson’s latest megabucks film project The Hobbit in New Zealand. 

Queenstown has been abuzz this week with The Hobbit crew and stars hitting town. The construction of the film set has been in full swing out at Paradise near Glenorchy, whilst stars Orlando Bloom, who plays Legolas, and Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, have been spotted around town. 

Last night (Thursday), Jackson, Bloom and McKellen were among a 10-strong group who dined on the ground floor at downtown Queenstown’s Botswana Butchery restaurant.

Key visits Ziptrek

After his announcement, Key seemed happy to bring an end to media questions about Cuppagate and head up the gondola for a tour of Ziptrek Ecotours.

Speaking with Ziptrek’s general manager Stu Cordelle, staff and four guests about to embark on a flying fox adventure, Key said he was maintaining current tourism funding.

“Although [Key] did not rule out increased funding for tourism in the future,” Cordelle says.

“We were delighted to have him visit our Ziptrek treehouse so he could see first-hand how a relatively new tourism business has developed and grown in just two years of operation.

“He had a good look down the hill towards our bottom treehouse and said he would love to come back without the media entourage, but with his family,” Cordelle says.