National parks feeling ‘ill-effects’ from tourism boom, government report admits

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Tourists stream across the busy Tongariro Crossing on Easter Sunday, when queues for toilets stretched to the dozens.

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Tourists stream across the busy Tongariro Crossing on Easter Sunday, when queues for toilets stretched to the dozens.

If you are planning to holiday in New Zealand this summer, you may have to get your skates on.

A government report has warned hotel accommodation in some parts of the country is getting scarce and popular national parks are experiencing “strain” as international tourism hits record levels.

Without action, the issues are expected to become more pressing in future years, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment suggests in its tourism infrastructure report.


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Last year, more a third of foreign tourists visited one of New Zealand’s 13 national parks, with visits to the Fiordland, Mt Aspiring, Mt Cook and Paparoa parks surging by more than 20 per cent.

The tourism infrastructure report indicated that was beginning to have an impact on visitors’ experiences and on some of the parks themselves.

“Some iconic locations such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Milford Sound are already showing signs of ill effects from increasing numbers of tourists,” it said.

There was still “capacity” in less popular places and outside the peak season, it said.

Searches on the Department of Conservation’s website showed the Milford Track was fully booked between October 25 and April 18 next year.

The Routeburn Track “great walk” is also booking up fast with effectively no hut vacancies for three-day walkers between mid-December and mid-January.

The “exceptional growth” in tourism was pushing up hotel prices in Auckland and Queenstown in particular, the tourism infrastructure report found.

If hotel occupancy rates there continued to grow at their current pace, there would be no room at the inn by 2020, the ministry forecast.

Already in Queenstown, where no new hotels have been built since 2011, “three and four-star hotels are effectively full” during the peak season in January, it said.

RISE IN FOREIGN VISITOR ARRIVALS LAST YEAR

Queenstown: 24 per cent

Wellington: 15 per cent

Auckland: 9 per cent

Christchurch: 8 per cent 


 – Stuff


First published at: August 6, 2016 at 05:08AM.
Syndicated from: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/82889257/National-parks-feeling-ill-effects-from-tourism-boom-government-report-admits