Steve Jones' Say: Tourism taxes hard to fathom

How truly disappointing it was to see New Zealand introduce an arrivals and departure tax for air and cruise passengers, writes Steve Jones.

by Steve Jones

How truly disappointing it was to see New Zealand introduce an arrivals and departure tax for air and cruise passengers.

From 1 January they will be slugged near-on $22 for the privilege of spending time in New Zealand and injecting countless millions into the local economy.

They will cough up a small fortune hiring campervans, pay over inflated tourist prices to visit attractions, spend more money in restaurants than they will in a year back home, buy souvenirs, splash out on fancy hotels, the list goes on.

And as a thank you, the New Zealand Government is demanding an additional $22 from each and every one of them for a “border security levy”.

As with anything government related, the blame must ultimately lie with the Prime Minister, John Key, who, of course, also has tourism in his portfolio. This is the same John Key who I interviewed several times over the years at New Zealand trade show TRENZ, during which he consistently and earnestly stressed the value his country places on tourists and their economic benefits.

Back in 2012 Key took issue with Australia’s proposal to increase the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC), deriding it as a “barrier to growth” and raising it with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Yet he has now taken the same easy path to raise money by slugging the very people who inject more than $10b into the economy – international visitors.

Key appeared to contradict his comments from 2012 by suggesting the tax “will not make a blind bit of difference” to tourism numbers. I’m not sure that’s true. If you’re visiting New Zealand, be it for a short break or a longer self-drive tour, the addition of $88 for a family of four is unlikely to be the proverbial deal-breaker. But the creeping cost could make the difference between those toying with two or three destinations and where budgets are tight.

Whatever the impact on tourism, it’s not that which irks me.

What I find irritating is the ease at which governments lump additional taxes on international visitors who are the lifeblood of countless tourism-related businesses across the country.

New Zealand, and Key in particular, have been at pains to acknowledge the role tourism plays in the economy. Which makes this move so hard to fathom.

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