Tourism-related businesses oppose showing the cold shoulder to budget travelers

Queenstown businesses want New Zealand to attract high-value tourists, but not at the expense of those on a budget.

Some budget travelers to hubs like Queenstown end up making a living in Aotearoa, says one business owner.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash confirmed the country would not direct its marketing efforts at budget visitors who “travel to our country on $10 a day eating two-minute noodles”, but said that the welcome mat would be rolled out for all tourists.

This was echoed in Tourism New Zealand’s latest global campaign.

Bert Haines arrived as a backpacker in New Zealand 20 years ago.

He is now co-director of Future Hospitality Group which operates several businesses in Queenstown.

“I came here for six months, turned into a year, turned into two, turned into five, turned into a residence, now a business owner, family. I have an amazing life now built here and I’m enjoying it a lot . It’s because people welcomed me.”

Bert Haines, co-director of the Future Hospitality Group

Bert Haines is now a business owner and family man in Queenstown after arriving in the country with a backpack.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

He said New Zealand needed stories like his now more than ever – which is why we couldn’t lose sight of the appeal of budget travellers.

“Backpackers have been an important part of what we do and we have helped enable a few of them to come, stay and become New Zealand residents here and build their lives here.

“It’s kind of devastating to almost say ‘everyone is welcome, but maybe not as much as you guys’.”

He believed there were many misconceptions.

“Maybe they’re sacrificing at the grocery store on a two-minute noodle, but they’re buying a $400 bungee jump or they’re buying a luxury experience or they’re going to pay $250 for a round of golf. .. I think we just missed the mark on that one.”

In nearby Gibbston Valley, Oxbow Adventure Co managing director Darb Richmond said backpackers were a target market for its adrenaline-fueled offerings.

“They are normally here the longest and they spend a lot of money on things like this. I’ve worked in central reservations and this before and it’s amazing.

“They have their to-do list when they come to New Zealand and they’re going to spend money on it. They’re probably a little wiser where they spend it.”

Oxbow Adventure Co in Gibbston Valley Queenstown

Backpackers are a target group for Oxbow Adventure Co’s activities, says its boss.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

He has backpackers in his books.

“Without having all these backpackers here, we don’t have all the workers. We’ve been advertising for three months trying to get frontline staff…and we can’t get them.”

The tourism industry was built on the backs of backpackers so they should not be ignored, he said.

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