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Tourism, an asset or a liability?

5 September 2019

Tourism is a big earner for New Zealand.

Unfortunately, it's also a huge cost and a burden on our environment.

This leads me to ask, is the tourism industry really an asset to the nation or is it a liability?

Toursim creates jobs right?

Well yes it does, but most of the reports I've read indicate that the vast majority of those jobs pay very poorly. In fact, it's one of the worst-paying industries in the country.

Surely we'd be better off to encourage industries that can afford to pay workers at least a living wage?

But it's a great export-earner, right?

Whilst it's true that the flood of tourists coming to NZ every year do spend a lot of coin in the country, they also bring with them a huge raft of extra costs.

How much fuel is used ferrying tourists around the country -- and what is the environmental impact of all that motorised transportation?

How many people die on our roads as a result of visitors forgetting that *we* drive on the left hand side of the road -- and what are the total costs of those deaths?

How often must we lie about the state of the nation in order to lure these foreign guests to our shores? "100% pure"? Yeah, right!

And let's not even get started on the global impact of all those passenger-miles clocked up by people travelling many thousands of Km to NZ from their countries of origin. Presently, air travel accounts for around two percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Seems small but it *is* significant and the environmental cost of a flight from the UK, USA, Europe or China to NZ is much greater than most other destinations for those based in those countries.

The pressure of tourism is also having an adverse effect on the quality of life for many Kiwis.

Have you been to Queenstown or Taupo in the peak season? Have you tried to get accommodation or a decent feed at a decent price during those times?

It seems that many Kiwis are unable to enjoy their own country's top destinations for the sheer volume of overseas visitors and the effect this has on both availability and affordability.

According to Tourism New Zealand, as of 2019, tourism "is our biggest export industry, however I'm not sure I would expect this to remain the case for much longer.

Already the industry is predicting a slow-down and I suspect this will only get worse in the years to come.

Unless we think smart and act with vision and foresight.

Here's my vision...

To counter the environmental impact of international tourism here in NZ, we should ramp up the availability of EVs as rental cars -- selling the concept to greenies with slogans such as "play a part in keeping NZ green" -- or whatever.

There was also a lot of talk about bio-fuels for passenger jets a few years back (whatever happend to this?) but I think a better idea might be to give every overseas tourist half a dozen tree seedlings and have them plant them as part of their visit. They could then be actually offsetting the carbon footprint of their air-travel in a very obvious, visible and practical manner.

It's all about easing the conscience of those who choose to come here and giving them bragging rights when they return home... "my holiday was carbon neutral, was yours?"

Yeah, tourism is a real mixed bag of good and bad but I feel it's not being well managed at the moment so as to maximise the good whilst minimising the bad. Too many opportunities are going ignored and we can't rest on our laurels (relying on the Lord of the Rings effect for example) forever.

Now I'm not a university trained MBA or anything but every day I spot instances where I see an almost total lack of vision and imagination in respect to businesses and industries in this country. All too often it seems that the only "success strategy" companies can come up with is to hire some highly salaried CEO from overseas in the hope (and expectation) that they'll create miracles. As we've seen with Fonterra, with Maori TV and with a raft of other such cases, it's often a strategy doomed to failure.

What do readers think about the NZ tourism industry?

Is it an industry that is now resting on its laurels too much?

Is it failing to adequately mitigate the risks due to increased environmental awareness by overseas tourists? Should it be leveraging this increased concern to actually boost its competitiveness on the global stage?

Your thoughts please.

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