New Zealand to tax tourists as influx grows

Tourists to New Zealand are to be charged a special tax, under new government plans announced Friday to deal with the growing influx of holidaymakers coming from overseas.

Visitor numbers have surged by nearly a third in the past three years to 3.8 million in the 12 months to April – almost as big as the country’s population. “This rapid growth has impacted on the costs and availability of publicly-provided infrastructure,” tourism minister Kelvin Davis said. “Many regions are struggling to cope and urgently need improved infrastructure, from toilet facilities to carparks.”

A tax of NZ$25-35 (US$17-24) will be imposed on international visitors from the middle of 2019, while price hikes for immigration fees and visas will take effect this November.

Australians and most Pacific Island forum countries will be exempt from the new charges. Tourism is a key pillar of the New Zealand economy and the new tax is expected to raise up to NZ$80 million in its first year, which will be split between tourism infrastructure and conservation initiatives. The main opposition National Party claimed the new tax system would make New Zealand a “less attractive” destination.

But Davis believed the impact on tourist numbers would be minimal. “When you’re talking about the additional cost to, say, someone coming from the United States who are already paying about NZ$1,200, an extra NZ$25-NZ$30 isn’t going to make that much of a difference,” he said.

According to data released by Tourism New Zealand in September last year, despite overall support for tourism, 35 percent of citizens think “international visitors put too much pressure” on the country.

The New Zealand tax plan comes as locals in many of the top tourist destinations around the world grow frustrated with tourists who boost the economy but also put pressure on infrastructure and raise the cost of living. Many residents complain that the cost of providing facilities – like public transport and emergency healthcare – and cleaning up after hordes of tourists is borne by taxpayers.