Call to consider tourism volumes

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Tourist numbers in Wanaka could become overwhelming in the decade ahead, the Wanaka Stakeholders Group says.
Deputy chairman Mark Sinclair said the group was not against tourism, but asa community there was a decision to make about whether tourism in Wanaka was about volume or about quality of experience.
The group represented more than 3200 members and out of that hundreds if not thousands were involved in tourism either directly or indirectly, Mr Sinclair said.
Tourism had brought many positive benefits including better access to services but the town was reaching a crucial point and overtourism could become more of a problem.
‘‘If we supercharge tourism the impacts could far outweigh the benefits,’’ he said.
The affordability of accommodation was a challenge for some people.
‘‘Some workers who help keep our town running are forced to live in cars, live in campgrounds, or live however many people to a room,’’ Mr Sinclair said.
‘‘Is that the future we want for this location?’’
Even if expansion atWanaka Airport did not take place, Wanaka was projected to double in size over the next 20 years, according to the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
‘‘Even without the airport being developed, we are still going to have infrastructure problems — we already do.’’
‘‘We need to decide as a community, are we about volume, are we about quality of experience, or something completely different?’’
QLDC media and channels adviser Jack Barlow said the district was one of the most popular visitor destinations in the country, providing a wealth of benefits, but challenges as well.
The council was taking a proactive approach on a range of programmes to ensure growth was managed in a sustainable fashion.
‘‘We recognise how vital it is to maintain the qualities that make Queenstown Lakes such a special area.’’
Sustainable tourism numbers as well as a growing resident population were part of both the Wanaka Masterplan and Lakefront Development Plan and had extensive community input, he said.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall said international visitor arrivals were entering a cycle of slowed growth due to global events like Brexit and the US/ China trade war, plus a more competitive tourism environment.
‘‘Tourism New Zealand is focused on ensuring that tourism gives back more than it takes to our home and our people, that’s why we only market New Zealand strategically to high­value international visitors in key markets.’’
New Zealanders made up the largest proportion of tourists, representing more than 60% of all visitors. That seemed to be increasing.
‘‘We all have a role to play to ensure that both domestic and international tourism is well managed so that it gives back more than it takes.’’
Significant investment had been made to support this including the International Visitor Levy and the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, he said.
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis acknowledged there was a need for a fuller understanding and better management of the impacts and costs of tourism on communities and the environment.
‘‘While we aren’t suffering from overtourism here, our government has been proactive through the New Zealand-Aotearoa government tourism strategy, increased destination management capability, and sustainable funding for the management of tourism.’’
This included funding for tourism infrastructure, attractions that disperse visitors to regional areas like the New Zealand cycleways, and better management of areas such as responsible camping, he said.