In his first address to industry yesterday, the new Tourism Minister outlines the government’s priorities for tourism. Below is his full speech to TIA’s Tourism Summit Aotearoa at Te Papa in Wellington.
Thank you Simon [Dallow]. I’d like to thank Grant [Webster], Chris [Roberts] and the rest of the TIA team for organising this event and inviting me to speak to you today.
I am excited to be back working in the tourism portfolio. It is a real privilege to be the Minister for a sector that brings so much to the economy, New Zealanders and their communities.
Last week the Governor General read the speech from the Throne.
And the Government programme the speech outlined was ambitious.
Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but what is also ambitious is the way we want to operate as a Government.
We want to be a Government of inclusion.
For our tourism industry that means working together. It’s still early days, and I am keen to hear your views on the key challenges and opportunities for the tourism sector, so we can work together to address them.
We want to be a Government of transformation
As a Government we want to take action on issues facing the industry. From investing in regional economic growth, to protecting our environment. We will not sit our hands and hope for the best, you can expect this Government to be an active one.
We want to be a Government of aspiration.
You all know the economic contribution that tourism makes – 20 per cent of exports, nearly 6 per cent of GDP and over 180,000 people employed in the sector.
We also know you want to do more. And we know that beyond these headline statistics, the potential for tourism to promote regional economic development and Māori development is really exciting.
And with nearly 5 million visitors expected by 2023, tourism is positioned to make an even greater contribution to New Zealand in the future.
TIA’s sustainability commitment
- In light of that predicted growth, and the huge growth the sector has already seen over the last few years, I am really pleased to see that sustainability is the focus of some of your discussions today.
- Sustainability is at the core of the government’s agenda – from ensuring sustainable economic development (including increased exports and decent jobs paying higher wages) to addressing climate change and protecting the environment.
- I understand that TIA will today be launching a sustainability commitment for the sector.
- I’d like to congratulate TIA and all those involved in developing the commitment for taking leadership in an area that is incredibly important for the sector and New Zealanders.
- If the sector is to achieve the economic goal set out in Tourism 2025, then addressing the challenges that come with growth, and making sure growth happens in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way is essential.
- I look forward to hearing more about the sustainability commitment as it is rolled out and I encourage you all to get behind it and implement the actions into your business practices.
Government priorities for tourism
- I want to use this opportunity today to set out what I think will be some of the government’s priorities for tourism.
- But it’s still early days, and I am keen to hear your views on the key challenges and opportunities for the tourism sector, so we can work together to address them.
- I thought I would highlight a few areas that are of particular interest to me and will likely be a priority for the Government.
Managing growth in tourism
- There has been substantial growth in the tourism sector over recent years that has exceeded expectations of both the private and public sector. As a consequence shortfalls in services have emerged in some locations. We know the regions need improved tourism infrastructure, from toilet facilities to carparks to telecommunications.
- We are looking to invest in infrastructure, the conservation estate and training for our tourism sector workers. A levy is one way of responding to the sudden growth in visitor numbers and ensuring a sustainable funding model for tourism.
- There are also several other options, including looking at how conservation is funded, local government funding models and transport investment settings.
- So I will be looking a range of ways to support DOC, councils, and others in providing infrastructure and services that both kiwis and international visitors enjoy.
- I also want to make sure investment for tourism infrastructure is spent wisely and our image overseas is maintained. We will be working with the sector to see where the money needs to go to make sure we get the best bang for our buck from any funding changes.
Regional economic development
- The second area that is a priority for government is supporting our regions and increased tourism provides opportunities for regions across the country to grow and flourish.
- To spread the benefits of tourism more widely, the tourism sector and the government need to continue to work together to encourage our visitors to explore less-visited regions. This will allow these regions to grow their economies and create jobs, as well as relieve some of the pressure on the busiest spots.
- For example, it is great to see some of the regional promotion Tourism New Zealand is doing and the Department of Conservation’s work to support regional destination development.
- But it is also important to ensure that our more iconic visitor regions are not neglected so that we are maintaining and improving the quality of experiences on offer to visitors and protecting New Zealand’s reputation as an international destination.
- I think there are strong synergies between regional economic development and your discussions today around sustainable tourism growth – encouraging tourism flows across regions can help ensure that tourism growth is inclusive and sustainable.
- There has been a huge amount of interest in the $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund that the Minister for Regional Development is responsible for. While the parameters of that Fund are still being worked through, I think it will provide another avenue to support our regions with tourism infrastructure. I will be working with my colleagues on the Fund as this progresses.
Māori economic development
- A third area that I’m really interested in is the potential for tourism to support Māori economic development.
- Māori identity has always been an integral part of New Zealand’s tourism sector – right from the earliest days of sharing our unique culture with new travellers. I think there is immense opportunity for Māori to continue to develop businesses around their culture, history and stories.
- In Northland, I’ve seen authentic Māori tourism experiences across the region become more and more popular – activities like exploring the Waipoua Forest or visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, for example.
- As well as the Minister of Tourism, I am also the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations. This is a newly created portfolio and will focus on the opportunities that exist in a post-Treaty settlement environment for Māori, in ensuring the Crown understand and meets its Treaty obligations, and increasing the opportunities for engagement between the Crown and iwi on a range of policy issues important to Māori.
- I am keen to see connections being made across these portfolios and I expect there will be an opportunity to work with iwi who have completed their Treaty settlements and are keen to get into the tourism market.
- The tourism industry can and does leverage off our Māori culture and Māori can leverage off tourism – the question is how do we further promote and nurture these mutual benefits.
- I am familiar with the work of NZ Maori Tourism and look forward to seeing how this can be taken to the next level as part of the tourism portfolio.
- I know that there are many more issues that are important to the tourism sector – freedom camping, hotel development, labour and skills issues, maintaining community support for tourism – the list goes on.
- What I’ve outlined today are just some of the areas that I think will be a priority and I’d like to hear what the key issues are for you.
- I want to be a minister that listens to the people in the industry and finds out what needs to be done to make sure that we keep growing in a sustainable way. We will do everything we can to make sure that tourism continues to be the jewel in New Zealand’s crown.
- It’s clear that there is a large number of passionate people involved in the sector and I look forward to working with you to ensure that tourism delivers the most it can for our communities and our people.
- Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Read our full coverage of the Tourism Summit Aotearoa in tomorrow’s Ticker.