The impact of a changing climate on tourism in New Zealand

In 2014 I wrote a report for a course I was studying at Massey University. In that report I examined the potential effects a changing climate would have on New Zealand tourism. The report examined how businesses in the tourism sector are adapting to climate change, the opportunities and challenges that they see, how a tourist might perceive New Zealand’s efforts to deal with climate related issues.

Tourism is a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy and one of the most effective ways of show casing to the world what the country has to offer. It is based on niche local venture such as whale watching in Kaikoura, jet boating on the Shotover River, as well as skiing. All of these are susceptible to climate change to varying degrees, or environmental changes caused by climate change such as in the case of the Shotover River jet boating altered river flow regimes.

Some tourist operators have acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change and have invested in necessary technology and changes to known best practices. Not all tourism venture operators are convinced or in the case of the wine industry – perhaps quite reasonably – see opportunities in a changed climate for further development. Others, such as the operators of cultural tourist sites such as Whakarewarewa geothermal/Maori arts and crafts centre, are not likely to be affected as there is little exposure of their activities and exhibits to the climate, and it is possible to build appropriate environments to enable them to proceed.

New Zealand is a country that has some significant challenges ahead as it tries to comprehend how climate change will affect one of its primary industries that, along with its suppliers and associated infrastructure, employs tens of thousands of people. How the stake holders and businesses whether they are in central government, run a tourist venture or work in a supporting industry role approach the topic will to some extent define the outcome.

A number of recommendations with regards to how New Zealand should deal with the impact of climate change can be made on the basis of this reports findings:

  • New Zealand should draw up a long term blue print for dealing with climate change
  • New Zealand should accelerate efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of tourism, but that this will require input from the business sector, tourism officials and local government
  • The blue print should engage Maori, the tourism sector, and other parts of the economy linked to tourism either as a service/goods supplier or providing logistical support
  • New Zealand needs a tourism branding approach that is honest about the country, but promotes the positive aspects – 100% Pure does not do this

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