NZ tourism tax plan revealed

Simmering concerns over the impact of tourism in New Zealand have prompted government promises for greater spending on infrastructure — and a new tourist tax to help fund it.

The country’s Tourism Minister Kelvin Dale last month announced a consultation period over a planned International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of between NZ$25 and NZ$35 (A$23-33), which would be used to raise up to NZ$80 million (A$75m) a year for new infrastructure spending.

The charge is likely to be levied when visitors apply for an electronic travel authority or a visa, with the government ruling out any tax applied to airfares or charged on arrival at the airport.

“As a Government we need to find a way to provide sustainable funding to invest in both our tourism infrastructure and our conservation estate,” Davis said.

“We don’t believe that the financial burden should rest purely on the shoulders of New Zealanders — we do believe that visitors should pay their fair share,” he said.

Australians are likely to be spared the charge, with Davis assuring it “will not affect our major short-haul markets, Australia and the Pacific Islands”.

The move comes amid ongoing debate in New Zealand over the impact of tourism on local services and infrastructure, including complaints of “over tourism” in some communities. While the tax plan has largely been welcomed, tourism figures have stressed its proceeds should be directed back into supporting the industry. Tourism Export Council of New Zealand chief executive Judy Chen said a recent member survey indicated tentative support, but only if it was reinvested in tourism.

“Our members are saying there is much more that needs to be done to improve New Zealand’s tourism offering and any additional funding should go toward enhancing and developing tourism attractions and infrastructure,” she said.

She also warned that increasing costs to tourists would increase expectations. “The world of tourism is highly competitive and New Zealand is already one of the more expensive destinations,” Chen said. “This means there is an expectation that we will deliver a premium product and more cost on the visitor will increase this expectation.”