The New Zealand tourism industry’s new big cheese is putting a bold stake in the ground for a national visitor-levied tourism fund.
Tourism Industry Association NZ boss Martin Snedden is floating a new fund to bolster overseas marketing, promote domestic tourism and enhance market research.
Emphasising he’s giving his personal views only, Snedden says his preference is charging visitors as they arrive or leave the country, as that’s easy to administer.
If the four million passengers flying in or out of the country each year were charged $10 a head, the fund would raise $40 million per annum.
That’s in addition to Tourism NZ’s annual taxpayer-funded budget of about $85m, which is only for overseas promotion.
Snedden says he’s given less thought to a regional visitor tax, as promoted by Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd – while noting that would probably require a change in Government legislation.
Snedden – in a recent interview with Mountain Scene – is adamant that the decades-long debate over visitor taxes needs to be brought to a head.
“It’s time to stop just talking and doing nothing.”
A workshop on tourism funding, addressed by Budd, was included at TIA’s recent summit.
“After 45 minutes of thrashing that around, I noticed a real desire to get this thing through to an end result,” Snedden says.
“That’s a pretty strong message to me and to TIA to get in there, facilitate the discussion and get it to a conclusion.”
Snedden’s in little doubt a new fund is needed, especially for domestic tourism promotion and more market research.
Tourism NZ only promotes international tourism yet that’s underpinned by domestic tourism, he says.
“About 60 per cent of the money generated in tourism is generated domestically.
“A whole lot of the businesses that serve the international visitors only survive off the revenue they generate off the back of their domestic activity.”
Enticing Kiwis to holiday in their country also benefits the NZ economy, Snedden adds.
Market research funding also needs boosting, he believes.
“China’s a good example where we have some research but it’s not deep enough.”
Snedden is adamant that levies collected off visitors should only go into tourism – unlike many overseas examples.
“If TIA and the industry gets to the position of supporting the imposition of anything, it will be on the basis the money is quarantined for use within tourism.”
Snedden also believes that if a border charge is imposed, Australian visitors should be charged less than those from further away.
“We don’t want to strangle our Australian market which is still our biggest market, and everybody knows about price sensitivity at the moment.”