New Zealand to tax tourists to fund infrastructure amid tourism boom

A view of New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Tourism numbers in the country of 4.5 million have surged by nearly a third in the past three years to 3.8 million in the year to April.
A view of New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Tourism numbers in the country of 4.5 million have surged by nearly a third in the past three years to 3.8 million in the year to April.PHOTO: TOURISM NEW ZEALAND

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand announced plans on Friday (June 15) to introduce a tourist tax and increase other fees for international visitors to fund infrastructure development in the face of a tourist boom.

Tourism numbers in the country of 4.5 million have surged by nearly a third in the past three years to 3.8 million in the year to April.

"This rapid growth has impacted on the costs and availability of publicly-provided infrastructure," said tourism minister Kelvin Davis.

"Many regions are struggling to cope and urgently need improved infrastructure, from toilet facilities to carparks."

A tax of NZ$25-NZ$35 (S$23-S$33) would be imposed on international visitors from the middle of next year while price hikes for immigration fees and visas will take effect this November.

Australians and most Pacific Island forum countries will be exempt from the new charges.

Tourism is a key pillar of the New Zealand economy and revenue from the new tax will be split between tourism infrastructure and conservation initiatives.

The main opposition National Party said the new tax system would make New Zealand a "less attractive" destination.

But Mr Davis believed that the impact on tourist numbers would be minimal.

"When you're talking about the additional cost to, say, someone coming from the United States who are already paying about NZ$1,200, an extra NZ$25-NZ$30 isn't going to make that much of a difference," he said.