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Tourism group wants bed tax, border levy

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/12/2016

Tourists should pay an extra two per cent on their hotel bills and fork out more money for the border levy to help pay for the infrastructure they use when visiting New Zealand, tourism bosses believe.

Together that could raise $65 million a year and matched dollar for dollar by the government could raise the $130m needed to establish an annual fund to address tourism infrastructure challenges, particularly in regional communities.

The chief executives of Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport and Tourism Holdings Limited developed the findings to provoke discussions around government investment in public tourism infrastructure.

The report commissioned by them was presented to Prime Minister John Key on Monday and released publicly on Friday, receiving the support of the peak body, Tourism Industry Aotearoa.

The report suggests a $5 increase in the Border Clearance Levy which was introduced from January this year.

Currently tourists pay between $21 and $26, a fee which is usually incorporated into international airfares or cruise line tickets.

The report also recommends a formal review of the scheme - the National Tourism Infrastructure Levy - every five years.

Christchurch Airport boss Malcolm Johns says it's important for local public infrastructure to keep pace with tourism growth while being realistic about the ability of local communities to fund the level required.

"Rapid tourism growth over recent years means there's already a local tourism infrastructure deficit in parts of New Zealand, especially in regions with low numbers of rate paying residents and high visitor numbers.

On Monday, Auckland mayor Phil Goff revealed budget plans for a bed-tax levy on tourists visiting the city to help pay for infrastructure within the council region.

He hopes the levy would raise $30m and says tourists already paying hundreds of dollars for hotel rooms wouldn't be put off by an extra few dollars.

Mr Key and Labour leader Andrew Little didn't reject the idea, but both suggested it would be better at a national level, as proposed by the industry bodies in Friday's report.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief Chris Roberts said a national solution as presented by the scheme was preferable to a range of local and regional approaches.

"Many popular visitor destinations have low ratepayer bases which can make it challenging to fund the levels of infrastructure needed to support tourism," he said.

As well as needing government funds, the solution to the industry's funding challenges also need a robust governance and allocation process, according to the TIA.

"Those funds must be ring-fenced for tourism-related infrastructure and not siphoned off for other purposes," Mr Roberts said.

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