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PM's Opening Address To Tourism Assoc. Conference


Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister







8.40 AM

Thank you once again for the invitation to give the opening address at this annual conference.

I came last year as Leader of the Opposition to acknowledge the huge importance of the tourism industry to New Zealand and to express my hope that a new government would be able to work with the industry to benefit all who make their living from tourism and New Zealand as a whole.

This year I come to report back on the beginning we have made after only eight months in office and to express our confidence in this very dynamic sector of the economy. Indeed tourism is the fastest growing of New Zealand's large wealth generating industries. Your growth has been accelerating, with international visitor numbers up by almost ten per cent in the year to June. Earnings from tourism have increased at an even faster rate, by over fifteen per cent in the year to March 2000.

Within the industry itself, confidence levels are high. For sure, the highly competitive New Zealand dollar has helped boost returns, but there is much else going for New Zealand tourism as well. We are establishing a reputation for a quality experience backed by friendliness and hospitality, and we have a superb natural environment as well.

The challenge to us now is to take even greater advantage of our overwhelmingly positive image as a destination by co-ordinating our efforts between the private sector and government to get the best results for us all.

From the government's perspective, tourism is contributing mightily to many of our key goals.

1. We want to boost employment. A fast growing tourism industry plays a big part in that. Five years ago, tourism was estimated to support 118,000 jobs. When the figures are updated later this year, that number is likely to have grown significantly.

2. We want to boost export dollar earnings. Tourism as the largest foreign exchange earner in the New Zealand economy is playing a huge role. International visitors are estimated to have spent $4.26 billion here in the year ended March 2000. This sector's contribution to New Zealand's effort to earn, produce, and export its way to economic prosperity is vital.

3. We want sustainable economic development. Well managed tourism absolutely fits that description. In May, Mark Burton, Minister of Tourism, announced that government was committing $150,000 to the Green Globe 21 Environment programme in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association. We are jointly committing to high international standards and systems to see that our environment is both protected and enhanced through tourism.

4. We want to see economic development throughout the regions of New Zealand. Tourism has the capacity to stimulate that development in much of urban and regional New Zealand. There are exciting initiatives between the tourism industry locally and district and city councils which aim to make the most of the opportunities. And for the first time in a long time central government is seeking to work in partnership with the regions to support the development of locally and regionally driven growth strategies. Tourism will be at the heart of many of those strategies.

5. The government has expressed its commitment to beginning the long and difficult journey to close the great gaps which have developed between Maori and other New Zealanders. We are looking for every opportunity to boost employment opportunities for Maori. Tourism is a sector in which many Maori are already employed and have businesses, but in which we know there could be even more opportunity.

That is why a study is being conducted for two agencies, the Office of Tourism and Sport and Te Puni Kokiri, on "closing the gaps in tourism". The study aims to identify any barriers to Maori participation in tourism and how to overcome them, and to identify new opportunities. We expect to receive the report in November this year.

6. The government has expressed a great interest in asserting New Zealand's identity as a unique, innovative, dynamic and creative nation. How we portray our country to our visitors has a big role to play in that. Cultural tourism which displays the unique talents of New Zealanders, combined with the fine attributes of our lifestyle and environment has a special part to play.

To maximise the benefits of tourism to New Zealand, the industry and the various arms of government need to get their heads together. The industry has been calling for that for years, but government and its agencies have tended to be aloof.

Last year I said to this conference that it was essential to bring the government's and the industry's thinking together to produce a national strategy for sustainable tourism. And at long last that is happening.

In March this year, an Establishment Group for the strategy came together, representing the Tourism Industry Association, the Office of Tourism and Sport, and the Tourism Board (Tourism New Zealand). That group has made recommendations on the scope of a national tourism strategy, the process for developing it, and how to manage it.

Later this morning, Evan Davies, President of the Tourism Industry Association, and Mark Burton, Minister of Tourism, will jointly announce the membership of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy Group to take the strategy and the industry forward. The group is genuinely a partnership between the private sector, central and local government, regional tourism organisations, and Maori. The key aims of the strategy will be to:

 align the interests and activities of all tourism industry players – government and private sector

 harness our collective energy and avoid duplication of effort

 provide clarity of purpose and direction for the sector.

The process being followed could well become a model for that in other key sectors where the public and private sectors can and should co-operate to our mutual benefit.

I can say on behalf of government that we are redefining the role of government in the 21st century. In the past, governments intervened widely; in tourism for example, by owning a chain of hotels and fleets of buses, aeroplanes, and trains. Then, from the mid 1980s, government got out of direct provision of many services, and in the 'nineties retreated even further to a hands off approach to industry and business development.

Now in the year 2000, the new government sees its job in general as being to provide leadership, to co-ordinate and facilitate, to be a broker, and where appropriate to fund and provide. We know the limitations of government, and we know that to achieve our goals for employment and prosperity, effective partnerships with the key stakeholders across the economy and society are vital. This is the essence of smart, active government, 21st century style.

I hope the group developing the national strategy for tourism will give particular attention to four key areas:

1. The promotion of domestic tourism

One of our largest potential visitor markets is sitting here at home. When the dollar is low, the time is especially ripe to market our own attractions to ourselves. So often we New Zealanders know far more about the attractions of others than we do about our own. So many parts of New Zealand are well kept secrets. Domestic tourism has the double benefit of supporting our own economy and saving on foreign exchange. The time has come to consider

whether central government's tourism resource should also support domestic tourism promotion.

2. The critical importance of industry training

In this fast growing industry, we have skills shortages. We don't have enough chefs, for example, and we need more people with management and commercial skills appropriate for tourism. The strategy should look at how to build a workforce to meet tourism's needs.

This year the government has launched an exciting new apprenticeship scheme which is ideally suited for training in skills like those of chefs and across the trade and technical areas. We are funding apprenticeship co-ordinators to take the hassle of having apprentices away from employers. The co-ordinators will place the apprentices and take overall responsibility for the quality and monitoring of their programmes. Some co-ordinators may even employ the apprentices directly, as some apprenticeship trusts now do, and hire them out to employers.

Five hundred apprentices will be recruited into the pilot stage of the new scheme this year, and numbers will build in the course of the next two years to an annual 3,000. The hospitality area is included in one of the Auckland pilots for the scheme.

3. The place of technology in tourism in the 21st century

Direct marketing to consumers through the Internet is already a feature of the tourism industry. But there are many more possibilities – for the development, for example, of the virtual off-shore office to deliver quality information about the New Zealand product to wider audiences than ever before. The cost of locating offices off-shore could well be reduced by innovative use of technology, with the savings ploughed back into marketing.

4. The need for multi-dimensional branding of New Zealand

The "100% Pure" brand has clearly worked for many audiences, but it will not work for all. Our image needs to be broadened out to encompass the sophisticated, upmarket, first world, truly 21st century nation we are – in a superb natural setting. New Zealand as a whole needs a rebranding consistent with the reality that we produce world leading products of high quality – and our tourism marketing has a big part to play in that.

Let me report briefly on two other matters I commented on in my speech to the conference last year.

1. The Importance of quality research and information for the development of the industry

In May, Mark Burton announced the setting up of the Tourism Research and Forecasting Clearinghouse, with a Council overseeing its work to be chaired by Sean Murray of Tourism Holdings Ltd. Mark has also ensured the ongoing provision of the Commercial Accommodation Monitor and the Tourism Satellite Account, the results of which are critical for effective strategic planning in the industry.

2. The last government's user pays plans for border control.

I am pleased to report that those proposals have not been implemented. The new government is continuing to fund border control activities in those places in which government has traditionally funded them, accepting that as a core state responsibility.

There has been one area on which the Tourism Industry Association has expressed concern to the government – and that is on the Employment Relations Bill. A number of the concerns you raised have led to significant changes being made to the Bill. Those changes largely meet the T.I.A.'s concerns on issues like independent contractors, fixed term contracts, and the provision of information during bargaining.

I appreciate that T.I.A. did not in general support the repeal of the Employment Contracts Act. Labour, however, has never accepted that the balance struck in that Act was fair. For nine years in Opposition we campaigned openly on a platform of repealing and replacing the Act, and we believe we gained a mandate to do that. We also believe in keeping our word. The Employment Relations Bill is in reality a very moderate piece of legislation. Had I introduced it as Minister of Labour in 1989/90, I would undoubtedly have been denounced by my own supporters for leaning too far towards employers. How times change!

Thank you once again for the opportunity to speak at this conference opening. I have come because of the great significance of the tourism industry to New Zealand and because of the role I believe it is playing and can play in building a stronger economy and society. I come also to report on the progress we have made in keeping our word to you, and to express my hope that together, between government and the private sector, we can work in partnership to achieve our goals and dreams.


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