Although no official date has been announced yet, it is expected that from between mid-late 2019 onwards, New Zealand will begin charging international visitors between NZ $25 - NZ $35 to enter the country. It is expected that the tax would be applicable to most travellers staying for 12 months of less. The tax would be used to fund tourism, infrastructure, and conservation efforts, reflecting the debate surrounding the increasing environmental and infrastructure pressures resulting from the growth in tourism.
In the past 12 months up till April, 3.8 million tourists visited the small country of just 4.7 million people. This represents an increase of nearly a third since 2015. This number is expected to grow even further and reach 5.1 million by 2024. While tourism minister Kelvin Davis welcomes this surge, he recognises the issues associated with it and doesn’t “want our environmental and tourist reputation damaged.” The growth in tourism has affected the cost and availability of publicly funded infrastructure. "Many regions are struggling to cope and urgently need improved infrastructure, from toilet facilities to car parks," said Davis.
Of the 3.8 million visitors to New Zealand in the previous year, up to 39% were made up of Australian travellers. Despite this, currently Australians citizens, its permanent residents, and most Pacific Island Forum Countries would be exempted from this tax; children aged 2 and under are also excluded. Other major sources of tourism will however be covered, with the United Kingdom, United States, and China all falling under the tax plan.
This tax is expected to raise up to NZ $80 million in the first year, and would be collected via the visa registration process through an electronic travel authority. The money will be split between infrastructure and conservation efforts. The aim is also to create world-class facilities to attract higher paying tourists to the country.
A poll by Tourism New Zealand suggests 35% of the population believe “international visitors put too much pressure" on the country. Locals are complaining that their once peaceful nature walks are now filled with people – and often the rubbish they leave behind.
Conversation Minister Eugenie Sage finds it fair that the tourists will “make a small contribution so that we can help provide the infrastructure they need and better protect the natural places they enjoy.”
The National Party are against the Tax and claim it would affect New Zealand’s tourism as it would make the country a “less attractive” destination. However, Davis claims the damage would be minimal, as “an extra NZ$ 25 - NZ$ 30 isn't going to make that much of a difference,” especially to those who are travelling from far who may be already be paying over NZ$ 1000 to travel to the country.
This proposed tax follows a trend seen around the world where locals in many popular tourist destinations are becoming frustrated due to growth in tourists who, despite boosting the economy, are putting pressure on the cost of living. When finally introduced, New Zealand will join the ranks of cities like Amsterdam, New York, and Paris, all of which have introduced tourist taxes to combat over tourism.