28 Aug 2017

Labour floats $25 international visitors levy

4:44 pm on 28 August 2017

Labour is proposing a $25 levy on international visitors to help fund more tourism infrastructure.

Mana MP Kris Faafoi.

Labour Party tourism spokesperson Kris Faafoi Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

It estimated the levy would raise $75 million a year which would go into a new Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund to support the tourism industry.

The party's tourism spokesperson, Kris Faafoi, said three million tourists visited New Zealand last year and more infrastructure was needed to serve them, especially if the country wanted to attract more high-spending tourists.

"From Northland to Southland, councils are facing increasing pressure to support growing numbers of tourists without the funds to do it.

"It's time for the government to help ensure we deliver a world-class experience to tourists, without unfairly burdening local communities."

Mr Faafoi said the strain on infrastructure and the funding problems were clear, and councils and the Department of Conservation received little of the financial benefit of tourism, but had to supply the infrastructure tourists use.

He said there was no evidence that a levy of less than 1 percent of what the average tourist spends in New Zealand would hurt tourism.

"In fact, after National introduced a $22 border charge, passenger numbers rose faster than expected.

"The Tourism and Conversation Infrastructure Fund will ensure New Zealand has the infrastructure and attractions needed to support tourism, and that our natural treasures that bring so many visitors here are protected and enhanced for future generations."

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts. Photo: Supplied

However, Tourism Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts disagreed with Labour's plan.

Mr Roberts said international tourists already pay $1.2 billion in GST, as well as the existing border taxes.

"There's plenty of revenue coming in from our overseas visitors. They are more than paying their way in this country already."

What was lacking was the political will to direct it where it was needed, he said.

Labour plans to exclude New Zealanders, permanent residents, students and long-term migrants from the levy was not the most simple model he had seen, he said, and it was hard to know whether it would achieve its aim.

"Trying to just target international visitors here for a short period is actually quite complicated, causes big headaches, and that is why most border charges around the world apply to everyone travelling in and out of the country, so its quite a complicated model and could be quite administratively difficult."

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