The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s second tourism report urges the government to take advantage of the disruption caused by COVID-19 to transform the tourism industry.
Titled “Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism”, it builds on commissoner Simon Upton’s 2019 “Pristine, popular … imperilled?” report and presents four detailed policy proposals intended to shift the tourism sector from a volume/demand model to a sustainability model:
- introducing a departure tax to address the high and unavoidable emissions associated with international air travel
- making central government funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria.
- strengthening legislation allowing the Department of Conservation to fully protect Aotearoa’s most spectacular natural areas
- strengthening existing standards for self-contained freedom camping.
These represent a paradigm shift away from industry subsidy to increasing tourist and tourism business accountability.
Not business as usual
There is also much to like about the three key principles underpinning the commissioner’s recommendations:
- tourism should be treated like any other sector of the economy, without special priority and public subsidy
- communities and mana whenua should be central to tourism decision-making
- tourists and tourism businesses should meet the costs of the resources they consume (including finite environmental resources).
The report acknowledges the threat to the survival of many local tourism businesses from the crippling of international travel. But the commissioner argues there is great interest in, and wide support for, using this disruption to shape the industry’s recovery.
However, that transition will require active intervention to avoid a return to the status quo.
This is an excerpt from an article by James Higham, originally published on The Conversation.