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Does New Zealand have too much tourism?

Associate Professor Ian Yeoman, Head of the Tourism Management Group at Victoria University Wellington, suggests ways to ensure the country’s number one export industry continues to be successful, but in the right way.

24 May 2019

You may be aware of media stories about too many tourists in VeniceAmsterdam and Paris.

But what about the million tourists to Milford Sound or the 600,000 tourists to the Church of the Little Shepherd in Tekapo or the 130,000 tourists to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

There seem to be tourists everywhere, whether it is freedom campers, cruise ship passengers or new tourists from South East Asia.

Tourism is New Zealand’s number one export industry.

From humble beginnings at the turn of the 20th century with the Pink and White Terraces to an industry worth $39.1 billion, employing 8.4 per cent of all New Zealanders and contributing 6.1 per cent to our GDP, this is a successful industry.

New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is seeing substantive growth in international arrivals to the extent there has been muttering in the media about too many tourists and communities in rebellion.

A new buzz word has emerged called ‘Overtourism’.

Overtourism is defined as “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitors’ experiences in a negative way”.

Destinations like Amsterdam have being at the epicentre of Overtourism and as a response there has being a significant decision to focus on destination management rather than promotion and advertising.

This is what a recent report by United Nations World Tourism Organisation with contributions from myself and colleagues at the European Tourism Futures Institute and Breda University of Applied Sciences set out to do.

We explored the phenomena of Overtourism in order to find answers to the problem.

Today, income generated from both domestic and international tourism contributes significantly to the socio-economic and cultural development of destinations.

In particular, growth in hot spots such as Queenstown, Milford Sound and Bay of Plenty has created issues around the use of natural resources, socio-cultural impact and pressure on infrastructure, mobility and congestion management.

In recent years, these challenges have been coupled with the growth in supply of tourism accommodation through new platform tourism services such as Airbnb.

As a consequence, we have witnessed a rise in negative attitudes among local populations towards visitors due to issues of perceived overcrowding, noise and other nuisances attributed to tourists.

Tourism congestion is not only about the number of tourists but about the capacity to manage them.

It is aggravated by seasonality—i.e., they all want to visit at the same time rather than being spread out. This crowds out locals, creating a negative impact.

Some destinations have problems with congestion on the roads due to tour buses stopping near attractions or on the streets when large crowds of tourists inadvertently block main roads.

This creates noise, rowdiness and other nuisances.

Too much impact on physical space and local services causes agitation.

Here we have an over-proliferation of hotels, fast food restaurants and other retail operations aimed at the tourist.

There is no one answer, due to the different types of issue. What is suitable for Queenstown might not be suitable for Milford Sound.

The UN report sets out a series of policies and strategies to plan for the growth of tourism and a visitor management response.

First of all, a destination needs to define its carrying capacity for specific areas and attractions.

This will make it easier for destinations to implement strategies with the aim of dispersing tourists, segmenting tourists and developing new itineraries and attractions more effectively.

The formation of policy entails working with stakeholders and communities where tourists and residents are perceived as one.

For example, in Copenhagen tourism is for the benefit of both visitors and residents, with tourists called ‘temporary residents’

Strategies that can be deployed include:

  • Dispersing visitors beyond tourist hotspots by developing attractions and events in the lesser visited parts of a destination.
  • Stimulating new tourist itineraries for niche markets—i.e., food or photography.
  • Reviewing and adapting regulations appropriate for a defined carrying capacity, which may include creating pedestrian area zones or bylaws for second homes.
  • Identifying and targeting segments with lower impact according to specific contexts and objectives.
  • Promoting experiences for both tourists and residents, thus creating harmony and mutual benefit.
  • Using technologies to help manage capacity—for example, Camping NZ uses real-time information to make reservations or see how many slots are left.

Tourism in New Zealand is not like Amsterdam or Venice, as we offer a more tranquil, rural, easy going and authentic experience.

However, we do have a responsibility for the future and to ensure New Zealand tourism is successful, but successful in the right way.

Read the original article on Stuff.