After two years of pain for the tourism sector, Stuart Nash needs to explain why he doesn’t want a return of backpackers when tourism operators say they’ll take any overseas visitors, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“The Minister for Tourism made damaging comments this week suggesting New Zealand needed to attract ‘discerning travellers’, and to not ‘target people who put on Facebook how they can travel around our country on $10 a day eating two-minute noodles’.
“The return of backpackers might not be a silver bullet to make up for two years of closed borders, but they are the lifeblood of hostels around the country, visit places beyond the main travel hotspots, and provide the industry with vital seasonal work.
“In 2019, an estimated 65,000 backpackers came into New Zealand and paid to sleep in 27,000 beds around the country.
“The Minister's comments are harmful when the sector is still reeling from the effects of the two-year cut to the main vein of its customers. Hostels have been decimated, with 100 closing their doors for good and bed numbers decreasing by 7,000. Many tourism operators happily cater to backpackers' needs, and removing a significant portion of international visitors would be highly damaging.
“Backpackers are overwhelmingly young people who create their own experiences in New Zealand, many of whom will come back later in life with a family.
“The Minister needs to rescind his damaging comments and reassure hostels, and other tourism operators, that backpackers will be encouraged to come to New Zealand and have the time of their life.”