The benefits of marine tourism must be recognised in plans to create marine protected areas around New Zealand, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) says.
Establishing marine protected areas will help attract both international and domestic visitors, TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says. A network of marine protected areas would increase visitor numbers to adjoining regions, growing local economies.
However, more consultation with the tourism industry is needed, particularly if a concessions system is introduced, Mr Roberts says.
“Tourism operators such as whale watch operators, seal swimming operators, diving and snorkelling operators, kayak operators and recreational fishing charters have strong links and interest in marine protected areas. We are of the opinion that tourism and the sector’s interests are strongly under-represented in the proposal.”
In its submission to the Ministry for the Environment, TIA says the proposal shows a lack of understanding of the potential impact on the tourism sector.
Seafood exports are worth $1.38 billion a year to New Zealand but international tourism adds $11.8 billion to the economy.
So it is vitally important that any legislation for Marine Protected Areas take the tourism industry into consideration, Mr Roberts says. It must also consider the needs of the cruise sector, which is worth $436 million a year to New Zealand’s economy.
The benefits of marine reserves to communities has been proved, with Northland’s Poor Knights Islands being an excellent example, he says. Since the Poor Knights received Marine Reserve Status in 2008, there has been significant growth in dive/snorkel adventure tourism to the area.
Dive! Tutukaka, a dive charter/eco-tourism operator on the Tutukaka Coast, estimates that the direct value of their tourism attraction to the local community over the last 20 years exceeds $50 million. During the height of the season, they directly employ over 60 people, all due to activities generated from having the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve.
Research has shown that dive visitors to Tutukaka spend considerably more than other visitors. This success could be replicated elsewhere, Mr Roberts says.
“The proposal to establish Marine Protected Areas could bring benefits to New Zealand for years to come and will support the tourism industry’sTourism 2025 goal of growing total annual tourism revenue to $41 billion over the next decade,” Mr Roberts says.