Results of the ‘Mood of the nation’ survey commissioned by Tourism New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association provide a snapshot of how New Zealanders perceive tourism, what their tolerance is for future growth and what the issues are that require our focus and commitment.
The results are interesting and probably not what you would think from listening to some commentary. Nearly half of respondents believe the current number of visitors is fine, 30% would like to see an increase in visitor numbers and the majority of people are happy with a predicted growth in international visitors to 4 million in the next four to five years.
The survey was carried out in two parts, in December prior to the peak season and in March after a record summer of growth. Not surprisingly, there has been an increase (18% to 25%) in those who see tourism volume putting pressure on infrastructure and the environment, particularly in Auckland, Queenstown and Rotorua. The main areas of concern are road safety, impact on the environment, and pressure on infrastructure.
At Tourism New Zealand, we not only recognise these issues, we are already working with other agencies to address them and our efforts are already having an effect.
The most significant action on Tourism New Zealand’s part has been shifting our marketing effort to drive shoulder season travel to alleviate peak season pressure. This is a decision we made last year and we are already seeing the results. We are doing this in a number of ways; through our messaging and campaigns, our itineraries and our international media programmes. Growth in spring arrivals was higher than peak season growth and figures released last week show the trend continuing into autumn with holiday arrivals for March up a massive 25% on the same period last year.
We are also continuing to play an important part in helping to educate visiting drivers about what they need to know about the challenges of driving in New Zealand. We are in the unique position of being able to reach people at the planning part of their journey, before they even leave their home country. We have developed driving information videos in Chinese, Indian and German languages as well as video targeting drivers from the US.
Pressure on infrastructure and the lack of accommodation is also an issue we are addressing as part of a major project looking at hotel accommodation.
The Mood of the Nation survey shows that New Zealanders have a mixed knowledge of the tourism industry. Many people are aware of tourism’s value but not everyone knows just how highly it ranks and how many jobs it creates, directly, or indirectly. So while we rightly concentrate our efforts on addressing the issues highlighted in the survey, it’s also important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that tourism is our biggest services export, providing jobs, income and economic value for all New Zealand.