New Zealand’s tourism minister has again expressed his aversion to budget travellers, saying the country will not seek to attract those who “travel around our country on $10 a day and eat two-minute noodles”.
Stuart Nash said the country would unashamedly continue to focus on large “high-quality” users, despite one expert saying such visitors typically had a much higher environmental footprint and did not necessarily contribute more to the economy.
Announcing plans Wednesday to bolster the tourism workforce as the country’s borders reopen, Nash said the country will continue to focus on big-spending visitors. “When it comes to targeting our marketing spin, it’s going to unashamedly be towards … quality tourists,” he said.
“We will welcome backpackers… [but] we’re not going to target people who post on Facebook how they can travel around our country on $10 a day and eat two-minute noodles.”
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While the minister has said backpackers and lower-budget visitors were still welcome in New Zealand, his focus on wealthy tourists has been controversial in the past.
In 2020, Nash said the country would “unabashedly” target the super-rich, seeking to attract the kind of tourists who “fly business class or premium economy, hire a helicopter, tour Franz Josef and then dine at a high level. the end restaurant”. The suggestions attracted some heat, with one commentator calling them “snobbish, elitist and out of touch.”
The assumption that “high net worth individuals” contributed more to New Zealand than budget travelers was not necessarily supported by the research, Professor James Higham, professor of tourism at Otago University, said. “I haven’t seen any evidence of that,” he said.
“The trend in recent decades globally has been for tourists to travel longer, travel faster, produce more CO2, stay shorter and spend less at the destination,” said.
The result, he said, was often “very wealthy people destroying the planet by not contributing to destinations that we might have expected or hoped for”.
“Large-scale users are often the most environmentally damaging and because they tend to have … regular repeated high-carbon journeys with short stays … they are not particularly beneficial, especially to remote destinations made in New Zealand.”
Tourists who tend to have lower incomes — such as international students and backpackers — often stayed longer in the country, and the length of their stay was directly correlated with cumulative spending in the country, he said.
Cruise ship visitors, for example, were typically affluent, but made up only 3% of visitors, despite being 9% of visitors. “The economic contribution of cruise passengers pales in comparison to students who come here to study,” he said.
Budget travelers were also often repeat visitors – those who came as backpackers might return as workers, or as tourists later in life, Higham said.
Nash’s comments come as New Zealand attempts to rebuild its tourism workforce and industry after a year of being shut off from the world by pandemic protections.
Before Covid-19, international tourism made up a large part of the country’s economy – its direct and indirect contribution is 9.3% of GDP – but rising visitor numbers had also led to growing concerns about environmental degradation, overcrowding and pressure on infrastructure.