Tourism debates its future

The future of the country's biggest export industry is currently being debated by industry and government delegates in Wellington.

The spectre of a significant slowdown in growth overhangs Tourism Summit Aotearoa, although industry leaders say work is being done to ensure the visitor market is sustainable.

Over-tourism, under-investment in infrastructure, flight guilt and a slowdown of growth are some of the challenges facing the industry.

The government predicts the tourism growth rate could drop to zero over the next 24 months after a visitor boom.

Last year, visitor spending reached a record $39.1 billion.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said the slowdown was an opportunity for the industry to take a breather and prepare for future growth.

Arrivals from China were down 11 percent in the first half of the year, he said.

But there was a strong demand from the United States and Australia arrivals were up during the same period, Roberts said.

He was confident the industry would be valued at more than $40 billion this year.

The industry needed to share the benefits of tourism while managing the impacts, he said.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said the global uncertainty meant it was hard to forecast because the range of possible outcomes was widening.

But, he said, it was far from another global recession.

The trade war between the United States and China was a style of economic warfare thought to be left in the past, which was making the market more volatile, Gordon said.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment tourism general manager Iain Cossar said data and insight would play a big role in the future of the industry.

Work was under way on setting up an accommodation dataset to replace the survey dropped by Stats NZ, he said.

The industry and government were working together to improve data, including regional figures, Cossar said.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis will hold a hui to discuss data next month.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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