Most international visitors will start paying an additional fee before entering New Zealand from today.
The International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) is a $35 fee collected through visa applications.
The levy is expected to raise more than $450 million over the first five years to be split between conservation and tourism.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) tourism system and insights manager Richard Davies said the split funding recognises the visitor pressure on both sectors.
“Tourism has put a lot of pressure on some small communities and on some places on the conservation estate. It’s really exciting to have a funding tool like the IVL, which lets visitors contribute to enhancing the quality of the environment that they’re coming for and contributing to some of the costs,” Davies said.
About 107 submissions were received when the levy was opened for consultation last July, with more than 90 submitters supporting the tax.
An industry advisory group is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, with members making recommendations to ministers on what their investment priorities should be.
Davies said he did not believe that visitors would be deterred by the additional cost.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback that the quality of the experience at some places was declining. Without some kind of intervention, like the IVL, that was likely to carry on and also risk New Zealand’s reputation and its appeal as a destination, so we think overall the levy will be a really positive contribution.”
Australians – who account for close to half of all international visitor arrivals – are one of the exempt groups.
Davies said attaching the fee to the immigration system made it difficult to charge Australians.
“The mobility between New Zealand and Australia is a really critical part of the overall relationship and the Trans-Tasman economy, so it’s essentially neither possible nor desirable to put the levy on Australians because we’ve used the immigration system as the mechanism.”
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said people who need a visa to enter New Zealand were unlikely to notice a difference.
“We don’t think, in any significant way, it’s going to deter people coming to New Zealand. It’s essential though that it’s implemented as efficiently as possible so it’s not a hassle for people who now have to pay it,” Roberts said.
He is more concerned about potential disruption when the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is introduced from 1 October. It will work alongside the levy.
Travellers who do not need waivers and Australian permanent residents – Australian citizens are exempt – will be required to hold an electronic travel authority in order to board flights.
Requests for one can be made from July and the electronic travel authority will cost from $9 – $12 and will last up to two years, or five years for airline and cruise line crew who will need to hold a Crew ETA.
Chris Roberts said Immigration NZ was spending $5m on a global campaign to educate as many visitors as possible.
“It will be around that early October time where we’ll be watching very carefully to see how successful that PR campaign has been.”