New Zealand Doesn’t Have Enough Hotel Rooms to Accommodate Crush of Tourists

Credit: skift.com

CameliaTWU  / Flickr

Infrastructure in many parts of New Zealand can't handle increased tourism. Pictured are tourists at Stirling Falls on New Zealand's South Island. CameliaTWU / Flickr



Skift Take: New Zealand needs to come to terms with its infrastructure problems in hospitality or it will be maxing out tourism opportunities. Although sometimes that can be a good thing if a destination gets overrun with visitors.

— Dan Peltier

When their flight home to the U.S. from Auckland was delayed last month, a group of 53 elderly American tourists was put up in a traditional Maori meeting house for the night because all the city’s hotels were full.


The visitors were welcomed by an elder, given biscuits and a cup of tea before being shown to their sleeping arrangements — mattresses on the floor of the tennis court-sized hall adorned with Maori wood carvings.


“We were joking with them that it was a bit like being young again at an American holiday camp,” said Jenny Nuku, treasurer of the Maori community center, called Te Puea Marae. “They all were laughing.”


While the alternative accommodation made for a unique cultural experience, it illustrates how New Zealand’s tourism boom is stretching infrastructure to breaking point. With 3.5 million short-term arrivals last year — 480,000 more than had been projected only two years earlier — a lack of capacity may end up harming the nation’s biggest foreign exchange earner.


Scenic walks across volcanic plateaus and through snow-capped alpine valleys are becoming congested, while small towns servicing adventure activities like jet-boat rides down surging rivers or guided walks across 7,000-year-old glaciers are finding their sewerage systems overloaded.


“If we don’t fix these things and look to the long term, we’ll be putting a cap on our own growth,” said Quinton Hall, chief executive officer of Ngai Tahu Tourism, one of the country’s biggest adventure tourism operators. “We’ve got a natural cap on our peak period right now because we just don’t have the accommodation in New Zealand. Even if they wanted to come, they couldn’t find anywhere to sleep.”


No Room at the Inn


Tourist numbers jumped 12 percent in 2016 and are forecast to reach 4.5 million by 2022 — almost matching the country’s current population of 4.7 million. Government research last year identified a likely shortage of more than 4,500 hotel rooms by 2025, after taking into account existing construction plans for about 5,200 new rooms.


Hotel occupancy in Auckland averages 94 percent in February and about 86 percent over the year, with the nation’s largest city frequently full.


“If immediate solutions aren’t found, it is unlikely we will continue to grow at current levels,” said Dean Humphries, national director of hotels at Colliers International. “If we are going to continue to see more tourists come into the country, where do they go?”


In the regions, the influx is causing different problems, with infrastructure like car parks and toilets straining under the load.


Volcanic Plateau


At the 19.4-kilometer (12-mile) Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a track through a World Heritage Area on the central North Island volcanic plateau, thousands of tourists are overwhelming facilities designed to be used by a few hundred people a day.


In Glenorchy, near Queenstown, where Ngai Tahu offers jet boating, canoeing and horseback trail rides, the company is forced to bring in chemical toilets during peak season because the small town’s waste-water facilities are insufficient.


There’s a similar issue at Franz Josef, the South Island township near the spectacular glacier of the same name, where untreated sewerage was pumped into a nearby river after a surge in tourist numbers.


The overloading is fueling concern that a bad tourist experience will harm New Zealand’s clean green image and dent an industry that earned NZ$14.5 billion ($10 billion) from foreign visitors last year — a fifth of all export receipts.


Funding the infrastructure that’s required is now sparking debate.


Remote Attractions


Many of New Zealand’s natural attractions are remote, and the nearest towns don’t generate enough local taxes to pay for the car parks and rest stops visitors need.


Regional councils this week estimated NZ$1.4 billion needs to be spent on tourism infrastructure to keep pace with demand. The government, which disputed that figure, has allocated NZ$17.5 million. The association representing tourism operators wants more, noting that foreign tourists contribute NZ$1.15 billion annually to the government’s coffers in sales taxes alone.


Christopher Luxon, Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer, said last year he supported a national bed tax and a border levy on visitors to help fund tourism investment.


There are also growing calls for visitors to pay to enter national parks, as they do most days at the Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks in the U.S.


“We provide all sorts of things free of entry, but not free of costs,” said David Simmons, professor of tourism at Lincoln University in Christchurch. “We need an informed discussion about user pays.”


Solving the accommodation shortage will be in the hands of private investors such as Auckland International Airport Ltd. and Tainui Group Holdings. They are building a 250-room five-star hotel near the international terminal under Accor SA’s Pullman brand, due to open in late 2019.


Until then, Jenny Nuku can expect more calls for emergency lodgings at Te Puea Marae, whose entire hall can be rented for NZ$500 a day. That’s less than NZ$10 per person for the 53 American tourists who bedded down there last month and got the added bonus of an authentic encounter with Maori culture.


“They said they’d traveled around New Zealand, and this was the first real cultural experience they’d had,” Nuku said with a chuckle. “They had their phones and iPads out, taking selfies. We were just happy to be of assistance.”19


This article was written by Tracy Withers and Matthew Brockett from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.



Top Stories

London Signs Tourism Agreement With Paris While the UK Prepares for Brexit

The timing of this announcement – in the same week that the UK formally starts the Brexit process – shows that the Mayor of London is keen to show the city is still very much willing to work with Europe. -Patrick Whyte
  • 2 days ago
  • 22

Virgin Atlantic Heading Toward Loss Thanks to Brexit and Low-Cost Competition

Looks like it could be a tough couple of years for Virgin Atlantic. Even if the Brexit vote hadn't happened the airline would have still faced a squeeze from the increased level of competition on its transatlantic routes. -Patrick Whyte
  • 2 days ago
  • 14

Carnival Expects a Strong Year Despite Tensions in Asia

Carnival Corp. is seeing strong demand and a willingness to pay more in its key markets. That's good news for the company and the industry in general, but China will warrant close attention if the dispute with Korea is not resolved quickly. -Hannah Sampson
  • 2 days ago
  • 13

Hawaii Tries a Light Touch for New Vacation Rental Regulations

We've yet to see a market where the carrot approach works better than the stick, and we're not optimistic about Hawaii’s hopes either. -Jason Clampet
  • 4 days ago
  • 9

North Korean Airline Begins New Service to China

Given the current geopolitical climate, we wonder how in demand this route will be. -Deanna Ting
  • 2 days ago
  • 9
farawayyachtingcharters - Easy Branches
botoxfillerveintheraphyinphuket - Easy Branches

Latest in Travel

Thomas Cook Abandons Practice of Separating Hotel Guest by Nationality

For most people, the idea of separating travelers based on nationality seems both old fashioned and a little odd. Forcing Brits to mingle with other nationalities (and vice versa) might do wonders for European integration. Although given the countdown to Brexit has already begun, it's probably a little late in the day. -Patrick Whyte
  • 55 minutes ago

Gourmet meals and a butler, coming soon to a theatre near you

Mixed Melanchony: Watermelon, cantaloupe, cherry tomato and black grapes tossed with balsamico chaat vinaigrette  For a lot of us, a movie without the standard popcorn and cola is unthinkable. But what if the dishes on offer were mac and cheese, burrito and tomato parmesan penne? We’d go with the latter. Curated by celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani, […] The post Gourmet meals and a butler, coming soon to a theatre near you appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 3 hours ago

A Preview of Southwest’s New Security Checkpoint Opening Monday in Los Angeles

Anyone who has flown Southwest through Terminal 1 in Los Angeles over the last couple of years knows that it’s ... Read More
  • 3 hours ago

System Professional and Vogue India decode your hair

Vogue India’s Fashion Director, Anaita Shroff Adajania, and her sister – YouTube star, Scherezade Shroff, give us #SisterGoals in more ways than one. Recently, the duo launched System Professional’s Energycode Mapping service with Vogue India at Asilo, The St Regis, Mumbai. What’s more: they gave the service a test run and shared their childhood hair […] The post System Professional and Vogue India decode your hair appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 4 hours ago

How to wear retro florals without looking like wallpaper

Spring/Summer 2017 was over-flowing with retro wallpaper blooms inspired by Seventies interiors – think curtains, table cloths and sun loungers. Beautiful bouquets crowded the catwalks in Chloé, Michael Kors and Prada in chestnut and turquoise hues, whilst Miu Miu radiated rainbow colours. Heat up your wardrobe this summer with Vogue’s top 10 floral picks for […] The post How to wear retro florals without looking like wallpaper appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 4 hours ago

Our J.W. Anderson for Uniqlo wish list

As J.W. Anderson is named the latest Uniqlo collaborator – following in the footsteps of fellow catwalk labels Lemaire and Jil Sander, and fashion names including Carine Roitfeld and Inès de la Fressange – our mind has already begun to draw up a virtual shopping list. Will there be a version of his Pierce bag, […] The post Our J.W. Anderson for Uniqlo wish list appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 5 hours ago

These celebrities will inspire you to go for that haircut

We get it, you love your long hair. There’s this emotional connect that most of us have with being able to run our fingers through our hair or playing with them aimlessly, and the idea of that going away can be a little daunting. However, not only is a fresh cut healthy for your hair, […] The post These celebrities will inspire you to go for that haircut appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 7 hours ago

Find a summer eyeshadow palette for every budget in our edit

Besides your clothing choices, your make-up should also get an update with the changing season. Summer calls for as much of nude with hints of shimmer as it does pops of colour. These eyeshadow palettes (there’s one for every budget) allow you to create fresh spring looks across the board—whether you’re looking for a basic […] The post Find a summer eyeshadow palette for every budget in our edit appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 8 hours ago

10 products that promise the shiniest hair of your life  

If you ever got face time with the hair gods, what would be your number one request? Longer hair? Maybe. No frizz? Yes please. Shiny hair? Yep, that would be all of us! It’s the first thing you notice in shampoo commercials and the best thing about blowouts. When it comes to gorgeous hair, shine […] The post 10 products that promise the shiniest hair of your life   appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 8 hours ago

Alaska Air Won’t Have Flatbeds But Will Reward Frequent Flyers With Free Upgrades

Alaska's frequent flyers should love this decision. No, they won't get flatbed business class seats to New York, but they'll keep plentiful free upgrades. For most road warriors, that's a big deal. -Brian Sumers
  • 8 hours ago

The New Wave of Booking Tech That’s Disrupting How Airlines Sell Tickets

Airlines are using new channels, such as Facebook chat and other airlines' websites, to sell their seats and other products. Some are turning to startups for help, rather than rely only on establishment vendors. -Sean O'Neill
  • 8 hours ago

Oasis CEO: Expect More Consolidation, Disruption From Alternative Accommodations

Will Oasis and other alternative accommodations players' arguably steadier, slower, and more curated approaches to scale pay off in the long term? Or will the speed and scale of bigger players like Airbnb win out in the end? -Deanna Ting
  • 9 hours ago