Weekend Sun column

Friday, November 20, 2015

It has been fantastic to see the cruise ships starting to come into port, signalling the beginning of the summer tourism season and a busy period for Tauranga retailers and accommodation providers. We all know the Bay is the place to be over summer; it is buzzing with people and activities over the holiday period.

Looking at the latest figures from Statistics New Zealand, nationally our tourism industry is in great shape. Tourist spending is up 28 per cent on the previous 12 months. This is set to continue, with visitor arrivals expected to grow at 4 per cent a year, reaching 3.75 million visitors by 2021. The industry now represents 17.4 per cent of our total exports, second only to dairy.

As a Government, we are doing what we can to back the tourism industry. We have invested an unprecedented $600 million to support overseas promotion and marketing work in both emerging and established markets. We are on track to reach the ambitious target of generating $41 billion in tourism revenue in 2025.

In my own portfolio area of Transport, we are opening more international links, which helps make New Zealand a more attractive destination. Just last week I authorised an alliance between Qantas and American Airlines, which will allow a direct service between Auckland and Los Angeles. This comes on the back of a recent announcement by United Airlines that they will start flights between San Francisco and Auckland next year. The increased competition means good news for both US and Kiwi travellers.

Air New Zealand also announced last week it will fly directly to Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam, and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce signed a Memorandum of Understanding between New Zealand and Viet Nam that will support their rapidly growing aviation sector and expand partnerships between our countries.

Tourism is an important part of the Government’s plan to grow our economy, signified by having the portfolio as part of the Prime Minister’s responsibilities. A strong tourism sector means more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders.