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Tourism Minister Adresses Tourism 2000 Conference

Mark Burton's Address to NZ Tourism 2000 Conference, Wellington Town Hall

It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to speak to the NZ Tourism 2000 Conference. I am sure that a great deal of very useful discussion has taken place here, and at the associated conferences and meetings that have been held around Wellington over the past few days.

Tourism is our premier industry. It is a key contributor to New Zealand's well being, it is an industry closely linked to how we see ourselves as New Zealanders and it has great potential for growth and development.

As the Prime Minister emphasised in her opening speech to this conference, the Government is committed to working in partnership with the industry to support and manage this development.

The key aspect to this partnership is developing a National Tourism Strategy and as you know, Evan Davies is the chair of the newly appointed New Zealand Tourism Strategy Group, which we announced yesterday. Today, I want to talk in some detail about the government's aspirations for the strategy.

But I also want to assure you that it is not a case of sitting back and waiting for a report before doing anything. I am pleased to say that since the election, significant progress has been made on some key tourism initiatives.

I'd like to run through some of these initiatives, touched on in the Prime Minister's opening address, each of which is intended to raise the capabilities and opportunities in the sector.

Tourism Research At TRENZ in May, I announced the establishment of the Tourism Research and Forecasting Clearinghouse. This programme is designed to greatly enhance the delivery of quality tourism sector research, information and forecasting.

Since the announcement in May, important steps have been taken. The Budget provided nearly $1 million for the Office of Tourism and Sport to be utilised to support information, research and forecasting projects under the Clearinghouse framework.

Tasks to be undertaken include the Commercial Accommodation Monitor and the Tourism Satellite Account. I am hopeful that a full suite of core time-series data can be provided, on an ongoing basis.

In addition, the Clearinghouse will work with other public agencies undertaking tourism research so that where appropriate this takes place within the Clearinghouse framework.

The Clearinghouse will also place considerable emphasis on encouraging greater private sector commitment to funding tourism research.

A user-driven Council will oversee the Clearinghouse with secretariat support from the Office of Tourism and Sport.

I am encouraged by the calibre of the Council, which is to be chaired by Sean Murray of Tourism Holdings Limited. I am grateful to Sean and the members of the Council for their commitment to this process.

The first meeting of the Clearinghouse Council is to be held later this month and I shall follow with great interest the progress and achievements of this important new initiative.

APEC – Our Regional Role Last month I travelled to Korea and presented an APEC Tourism Charter to the first ever meeting of APEC Tourism Ministers.

From what was a very successful forum, New Zealand and Korea have been given the responsibility of promoting goal three of the Charter – the Sustainable Management of Tourism.

We will be encouraging all the countries in our region to: demonstrate an appreciation and understanding of the natural environment and the need to protect it; to foster ecologically sustainable development opportunities; and to recognise, respect and preserve local cultures.

It is entirely appropriate for New Zealand to be leading this initiative. We must acknowledge that tourism activity can, and has in the past, damaged our environment.

Tourism as an industry needs to be environmentally considerate and sustainable. There is no point in telling the world to visit 100% Pure New Zealand, if we do not take the steps necessary to ensure we can live up to this claim.

We must protect the environment by identifying and understanding the impact of tourism and providing for the sustainable management of those impacts. Green Globe 21 The government has already demonstrated its financial commitment to protecting the environment, through its support for Green Globe 21.

$150,000 has been allocated to support the establishment of this environmental standards and accreditation programme for tourism in New Zealand.

We are working in partnership with the Tourist Industry Association to introduce this internationally recognised environmental programme to New Zealand.

Green Globe 21 will encourage tourism operators to see environmental quality as a source of competitive advantage, rather than as a cost.

Aligning Tourism with Economic Development Objectives In recognition of the key role tourism plays in economic development, the Office of Tourism and Sport, my policy advice unit, has been moved from the Department of Internal Affairs to the new Ministry of Economic Development.

I can assure you that a great deal of care has been taken to ensure that the momentum and capabilities of the Office in championing the tourism policy agenda will be preserved.

The move will sharpen the focus of the Office on the crucial role it has to play in fostering the development of domestic and inbound tourism as key drivers of economic activity at national, regional and local levels.

Qualmark I am sure that everyone here today accepts the need to continue reviewing and raising standards. A potentially useful tool in this regard is Qualmark. Qualmark was set up in 1994, as a joint venture between Tourism New Zealand and the AA, to operate an independent classification and grading system for New Zealand's tourism industry.

While Qualmark has graded motels and holiday parks since its inception, and more recently hotels, their objective now is to redesign the scheme, so that it covers most modern accommodation types – from luxury lodges, to backpacker establishments.

Another initiative is to expand the existing accreditation of retail tourist shops to include all other types of tourism experience, from transport, to tourist attractions, adventure tourism and eco tourism.

Qualmark has a vision to be the quality standards endorsement agency for the New Zealand tourism industry. I expect to receive a business case from the Qualmark board later this year explaining how this expansion can be achieved. I certainly hope I will be in a position to look on that business case favourably, because it seems to me that there is real potential benefit for the industry and the public, through a comprehensive and easily understood quality-rating system.

The key challenge is to develop credible standards in cooperation with and acceptable to the industry, and to consumers.

Working Holiday Visas The Government has agreed to double the cap on Working Holiday Visas to 20,000 places.

Working Holiday Visas allow people aged between 18 and 30 without children to spend up to a year in New Zealand, and work to supplement their income.

The expansion of the Working Holiday Visa scheme has been welcomed by many in the tourism industry as another positive development.

Many of the young people who participate establish a lifelong link with New Zealand – they become our "tourism ambassadors" when they return home.

NZ Tourism Strategy As I said earlier, I believe the most significant issue for the Tourism industry is the development of a New Zealand Tourism Strategy. This is a long recognised need.

For too long the industry has relied on an adhoc approach to planning, management and funding – too often resulting in lost opportunities or duplication of effort.

I believe that if a strategy is to work and be relevant, then industry must take the leading role in developing it. But there also needs to be a meaningful relationship between the private and public sector.

Such a partnership relationship underpins the approach being applied to the strategy development process.

It is vital in my opinion that this cooperation occurs as both the private and the public sectors contribute to the success in tourism, and both have perspectives and strengths that need to be capitalised upon.

It is through such a cooperative process that the members of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy Group announced yesterday were appointed.

Evan Davies, Geoff Burns, Glenys Coughlan, George Hickton, Ngatata Love, Kerry Marshall, Neil Plimmer, Brian Roberts, and Wally Stone. I am sure you will agree that this is a very talented and capable group.

I have every confidence in their ability to guide the strategy process and in doing so, to reflect the complimentary and inter-dependent domestic and international facets of the industry.

Most of the group members are present here today, and I am sure many of you have already taken the chance to speak with them about the strategy process.

The Strategy group will consult widely. Given the wide range of interests inside and outside of the tourism industry, one would expect that a variety of views and expectations will be brought to the table -and this is welcomed.

Aspirations for the strategy As the Minister of Tourism, I have my own views and aspirations for the tourism strategy.

I believe tourism can make a major contribution to the Government’s key long term goals, including economic and regional development, building stronger communities, closing the gaps between Maori and Pacific Islanders and other New Zealanders, and – as I've already mentioned - protecting our natural environment.

More specifically, I hope the Strategy Group will look for answers to the following questions:

What is the role of industry vis-a-vis the role of government? What do both the government and industry want, need, expect and contribute, and what are their priorities and conflicts? We need to establish and agree what issues the government should be taking the lead on, and what issues are best driven by the industry.

What is the most effective structure for the industry? I am certainly not suggesting wholesale abolition of existing structures, but undoubtedly there is overlapping of functions in some places, and gaps in others. I am confident that through the strategy development dialogue, we will achieve greater clarity of roles – and with good will, alignment of our efforts.

What does the tourist of the 21st century want and demand? How can companies, regions and New Zealand as a whole differentiate and package products to enrich and add value to the tourism experience? The government wants to ensure that the significant investment that we make through Tourism New Zealand is appropriately and creatively used to maximise the benefits to New Zealand.

What can we learn from structures and processes adopted in other countries or states? There are many useful examples we can look to including Canada, Australia, the UK, Scandinavia and Ireland.

What is the timeframe for action? What are the costs involved and what legislation or regulations might be required?

How do we ensure the New Zealand public is behind the strategy? The Strategy will only succeed if it has wide backing. We must quickly reach out to the wider business community, to local government, to important interest groups like Forest and Bird and the Fish and Game Council, and to iwi. To realise our tourism potential, we must enlist as broad a spectrum of support for tourism as possible.

And perhaps most importantly of all: How do we ensure that Tourism growth is sustainable? We know that tourism is a growing industry, but for New Zealand as a whole to benefit from this growth we must ensure it is sustainable - not just economically but also culturally, socially and environmentally. Tourism growth must not come at a cost to our natural heritage and our way of life. When presented with the strategy, I will be very pleased if it has managed to answer these questions! I want us to have a clear direction forward and a clear identification of roles and buy into responsibilities.

What it should do is provide a framework for decision making that will allow the tourism industry, in partnership with the government, to face the future with confidence.

Conclusion I know that by working with key partners, the Government can be more effective, and achieve far more, than if we are all working in isolation.

This partnership approach is of critical importance to both the tourism industry and New Zealand as a whole.

These efforts will equip us to capitalise upon and increase the benefits that we can achieve from tourism. We have great products, services and experiences to offer our visitors. Indeed, we have an opportunity this evening to recognise and reward some of those tourism operators who are displaying excellence.

As the New Zealand Tourism Strategy develops over the coming months, I encourage you to engage in the process, as it provides you with the unique opportunity to contribute to, then share, the benefits that will arise as we build our future together.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you as this successful conference draws to a close. I hope to speak with many of you at this evening's Gala Award dinner. Thank you.

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