Tourist season begins; New Zealand not ready

Each day as a mild aviation enthusiast I have the pleasure of watching an Airbus A380 arrive and depart most days I am working in my rental car job near Christchurch airport. The size of the aircraft never ceases to amaze. With 550 people on board and an aircraft worth $100+ million it is an immense responsibility.

So too are the opportunities that they pose as tourists and the responsibilities that we as the host people have towards them. Each visitor that is here overnight will need somewhere to stay, a means of travel as well as information about services we provide, places to see and things to do. Whilst New Zealand welcomes them generally with open arms, our amenities and balancing the needs of our own with theirs falls down badly. We are not ready.

But with tourists as with other visitors there are things we need to do to make sure our own communities, our own people can cope with the influx. The last thing the tourist wants is a hostile welcome because we cannot cope. The last thing we want to give them is a hostile welcome because they go back to their nation of origin they will tell people back there that New Zealand did not treat them well and they felt unwelcome. This is where a combination of local council and government co-operation is needed to determine how we can get the balance right so everyone is happy.

In this respect I think New Zealand falls down considerably. This is where I think all visitors to New Zealand should pay say a one off $75 levy at the border which goes into a fund to pay for the construction of amenities in those popular places. I am specifically thinking of such as Twizel and Mt Cook in the South Island or Waiouru or Turangi in the North Island near popular tourist attractions. It might be new toilets or upgrading existing ones or more information kiosks or new camping facilities. If it takes the pressure off existing facilities and reduces problems for locals then it is a good thing. It might setting up an area where so called freedom campers can go. That is fine if it gets them of suburban streets and parks where there is the potential for run-ins with the locals.

New Zealanders generally enjoy meeting tourists. I know I have had a lot of fun meeting them in bars and getting to know where they are from, what brings them here – how can we help them. It has nothing to do with the fact that I work in the rental car industry and everything to do with being a New Zealander who wants to see this country grow in a way that benefits both us and the tourists who come.

So enjoy your holiday season. If you see a tourist be nice and wave. If you talk to them, ask them how their holidays are going – can you help? If not, that is fine and wish them a good trip. If you see them doing something they shouldn’t be, don’t be aggressive about it. Just also remember – I know from having dealt with quite a few on work visas – that English will not be their first language. Politely point out what is wrong. If they are threatening and its in a public place look for a public warden or ring the local council for advice. All of them should have hotlines to ring.

Oh, and….

Merry Christmas.


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