Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by James Higham, Professor of Tourism, University of Otago

Raise your hand if you’ve ever travelled for weeks or months as a backpacker on a limited daily budget. Keep your hand up if you were made welcome in the places you visited on your OE, enjoyed chance encounters and experienced the generosity of strangers.

And did those experiences leave a lifelong affection for the places you visited and people you met? If the answer is yes, then we need to consider what might happen in New Zealand were Tourism Minister Stuart Nash’s latest ideas to become policy.

To recap, Nash told the Tourism Summit in Wellington last week the industry should move away from catering for low-spending backpackers and instead target the rich. This would solve two problems: the environmental damage allegedly caused by freedom campers (including using nature as their toilet), and the pressure of too many visitors in general.

Nash was right to say we cannot return to the pre-COVID normal when the border reopens and the tourism recovery begins. Overcapacity, strained infrastructure and environmental impacts meant growing community resistance was reaching a tipping point.

But do we really want to banish backpackers and position New Zealand as expensive and exclusive — the Switzerland of the South Pacific? There are five reasons this approach would be a mistake.

1. Big spenders are big polluters

Lower-budget travellers generally stay much longer than the average. They usually make a higher aggregate economic contribution than those whose daily spend is high but who pass through quickly.

Does New Zealand really want only the uber-rich to experience our natural wonders, when flying business class, travelling by cruise ship and hiring helicopters are the most environmentally damaging ways to do so?

Read more: Serving time: how fine dining in jail is helping prisoners and satisfying customers

If we were to consider the wider social, economic and environmental impacts of discrete tourism markets, we would be banishing the cruise industry first, not backpackers.

Backpackers unloading a van Not welcome? Backpackers unload their cheap camper van before leaving New Zealand. GettyImages

2. Backpackers bring many benefits

Because they stay longer, backpackers can bring wider benefits to our society, economy and environment. They tend to be more dispersed, bringing economic development and employment opportunities to regional communities.

Also, their travel behaviours tend to align more with the concept of regenerative tourism. Backpackers are more likely to be conscious of their carbon footprint, engage in beach cleanups, plant trees and involve themselves in conservation projects.

They are a seasonal labour force, too, as has been shown by critical labour shortages in rural and regional economies due to border closures.

3. The importance of diverse tourism

Backpackers and freedom campers support small regional tourism businesses, attractions and local services that would not survive without them. Backpacker hostels, home-stays, camping grounds and other low-budget accommodation subsectors would be at risk, as would many small and medium tourism businesses.

Read more: Traditional skills help people on the tourism-deprived Pacific Islands survive the pandemic

During crises it is important that tourism destinations have a broad portfolio of markets. This ensures resilience and mitigates potential economic impacts from periodic disruptions to global tourism. Furthermore, as the mayor of Queenstown has observed, today’s backpackers return in future as high-end visitors.

4. Tackling climate change and overconsumption

Social tourism refers to the principle that opportunities to engage occasionally in leisure and tourism are important for personal well-being and an inclusive society. It is a form of tourism based on an ethic of social inclusion, as opposed to exclusion based on wealth.

By contrast, the carbon-intense lifestyles and sense of entitlement of the super-wealthy are major barriers to climate action.

Our tourism policies should not celebrate and encourage over-consumption, which works against shifting attitudes towards less carbon-intensive and more sustainable travel.

5. Damage to our international reputation

Do we really want to be perceived as exclusionary and elitist? A colleague based at a university in the Netherlands, for example, reported a social media backlash:

Everyone is complaining about the news that Kiwis do not want to have us anymore and they are only interested in tourists who fly business class and hire a helicopter around Franz Josef.

Similarly, the policy can look petty. A story headlined “New Zealand vows crackdown on defecating backpackers” in the Times of India reported the New Zealand government’s promise “to take action against backpackers relieving themselves at natural beauty spots as part of post-coronavirus tourism plans”.

The Tiaki Promise is a charter for inclusive tourism based on host and visitor sharing mutual responsibility.

The post-COVID challenge

Should New Zealand’s post-coronavirus tourism rebuild really be perceived as revolving around the defecations of low-budget tourists? While there have been cases of disgusting behaviour, this problem can be actively managed.

Non-self-contained campervans could be required to park overnight in fully serviced camping grounds for a nominal fee. New Zealanders should not bear the costs of tourism, anyway. Local councils transfer the costs of freedom camping to ratepayers when they provide “free” overnight parking and toilet facilities — putting rate-paying local camping grounds out of business.

Read more: A four-day working week could be the shot in the arm post-coronavirus tourism needs

Above all, our tourism rebuild should be closely aligned with what makes New Zealand unique. First and foremost, it should be founded on the Māori principles of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga — a mutual responsibility to care for the land and culture, as expressed in the Tiaki Promise charter.

This would honestly reflect the ideals of generations of Kiwis who have set off on their own OEs to experience the world. If we consider this a birthright, is it fair that we deny the same to others who want to visit us?

Authors: James Higham, Professor of Tourism, University of Otago

Read more https://theconversation.com/5-reasons-why-banishing-backpackers-and-targeting-wealthy-tourists-would-be-a-mistake-for-nz-150639

Writers Wanted

Record year of growth for Tweed based business The Electrical Co

arrow_forward

Former US presidential candidate and acclaimed Gold medalist to headline Brisbane’s 2021 Asia Pacific Cities Summit

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning to you.   PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Ray.   HADLEY: Gee, you’ve had a week.   PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's been a lot of weeks like this. This time last...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: I'm going to go straight to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is on the line right now. Prime Minister, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ray.   HADLEY: Just d...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Defence and Veterans suicide Royal Commission

Today the Government has formally established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide following approval by the Governor-General.   Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Royal Commi...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Record year of growth for Tweed based business The Electrical Co

While many businesses struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 affected 2021 financial year, Tweed Heads based The Electrical Co. completed more than 50,000 smart meter installations across Aust...

a contributor - avatar a contributor

The Most Common Reasons why Employees End Up Leaving a Company

It is important for businesses to make sure they find the right people for their open positions. That is why a lot of companies are relying on professional outplacement services. A lot of companie...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

The little Aussie face sock startup is riding the personalized gift game

In a world where everybody has different desires, interests, and goals, what can be better than giving them things that meet their individual requirements. Personalized gifts have taken on the mar...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com