Published on : Friday, March 17, 2017
Last month, a group of 53 elderly American tourists was put up in a traditional Maori meeting house for the night because the city’s hotels were all full, when their flight back home was delayed. The visitors received warm welcome by an elder, given biscuits and cup of tea, before being shown their sleeping arrangements, which were mattresses on the floor of the tennis court-sized hall adorned with Maori wood carvings.
While the unconventional accommodation made for a unique cultural experience, it shows how New Zealand’s tourism boom is stretching infrastructure to breaking point. Scenic walks across volcanic plateaus and through snow-capped alpine valleys are becoming congested, while small towns servicing adventure activities are finding their sewerage systems over-loaded. According to Mr Quinton Hall, chief executive officer of Ngai Tahu Tourism, one of the country’s biggest adventure tourism operators, “If we don’t fix these things and look to the long term, we’ll be putting a cap on our own growth. We’ve got a natural cap on our peak period right now because we just don’t have the accommodation in New Zealand. Even if they wanted to come, they couldn’t find anywhere to sleep.”
In 2016, tourist numbers jumped 12% and by 2022, it is forecast to reach 4.5 million, which is almost similar to the country’s current population of 4.7 million. As per government research last year, there will be a likely shortage of more than 4500 hotel rooms by 2025. There are existing construction plans of around 5200 new rooms.
Hotel occupancy in Auckland averages 94% in February and about 86% over the year. Mr Dean Humphries, national director of hotels at Colliers International says, “If immediate solutions aren’t found, it’s unlikely we’ll continue to grow at current levels. If we are going to continue to see more tourists come into the country, where do they go?” Infrastructure in the region is suffering under the load.
The overloading is fuelling fear that a bad tourist experience might harm New Zealand’s clean-green image and dent an industry that earned NZ$14.5 billion (S$14.2 billion) from foreign visitors last year.
Tags: new zealand