In our series* of interviews and Q&A’s with political party tourism spokespersons, Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell shares his party’s position on the border tax proposal and targeted accommodation rate and how it would address a possible skills shortage in the industry.
Q. Tourism is a $35bn industry, earning $15bn a year in international expenditure making it NZ’s largest export earner – what is your overall vision for the industry and what will you do to help bring that about?
A. The Māori Party would support New Zealand’s interest in growing a sustainably managed tourism industry with a particular focus for iwi and hapū interests.
Q. Many regions are suffering under the strain of growing tourism numbers with infrastructure such as toilets, roads and rubbish disposal coming under strain – how will you help those regions, many with very low ratepayer bases, cope with the number of tourists visiting?
A. The Māori Party would support a tourism tax that could be utilised to support improved infrastructure and maintenance, particularly in areas that have low ratepayer bases but which are frequented by tourists. We would be happy to be guided as to how much the amount that this levy would be charged at.
Q. The government collects more than $1bn in GST from international visitors, do you support the return of tourist GST to the regions to help pay for infrastructure?
A. Yes, we would support a return of GST to the regions. The difficulty would be determining how much should be returned for each region but again we would be happy to be guided by this.
Q. Do you support Auckland’s move to implement a bed tax or targeted rate on accommodation providers and if so, do you believe it should be put in place in other cities such as Queenstown?
A. Accommodation providers already pay taxes and rates. Tourists bring millions of dollars to New Zealand and so we would consider it unfair for accommodation providers to be charged a bed tax.
Q. Five million tourists are expected in the country annually in just six years’ time, up from 3.5 million last year – do you believe the country is preparing itself adequately for such numbers and what can you do to help ensure we have the social license to cope with such growth?
A. We believe there is room for improvement in terms of meeting ongoing infrastructure needs and would look to address these quickly as this also has implications for Climate Change and a community’s ability to respond and rebound quickly after extreme weather events.
Q. The industry is predicting it will need an additional 36,000 full-time jobs by 2025 to cope with the expected growth that includes 8000 accommodation managers and 6000 chefs – how will you help ensure we can fill all of those jobs?
A. We would support immigration settings that would ensure our domestic shortfall is supplemented in order to meet the shortfall that our domestic workforce cannot meet.
We would triangulate the needs of employers with that of supply from high-performing tertiary education providers and incentivise greater uptake of roles within the tourism industry.
Q. Many tourism activity, accommodation and hospitality operators struggle to find local staff and rely on overseas workers to help fill vacancies – what guarantee can you give those operators that good access to overseas workers will remain in place?
A. We support the need for employers to fill such vacancies, and while we could not guarantee that these operators would have access to the overseas workers they needed, we would be happy to continue to support current settings.
Q. The tourism sector struggles with concerns of low industry pay and a lack of a career pathway – what can you do to help next generation of New Zealanders believe tourism is an attractive career to pursue?
A. We would support students with placements, and grow their ‘inner tutu’ so that more entrepreneurial rangatahi are able to forge successful careers and businesses in sectors of the tourism industry.
Q. Given the size of the industry, its expected growth, and its value to NZ’s economy, would you make tourism a University Entrance subject?
A. We would support that if there was a demand for it but note that you can complete a Tourism degree at university without taking the subject at University Entrance.
* Because of our Election 2017 coverage this week, our regular columns, From the Regions, Wednesday Letter, Buy Side/Sell Side and An Operator’s View will not run and will return next week.