100% Pure Future – New Zealand Tourism Renewed

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

I’ve been involved in various pandemic projects including contributing to BWB Texts in New Zealand’s 100% Pure Future – New Zealand Tourism Renewed. The publisher’s summary:

  • • Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on New Zealand tourism, but the industry was already troubled by unchecked growth and questionable governance that has put pressure on the environment, infrastructure and communities.
    • In this urgent collection of essays, nine writers outline their vision for sustainable tourism, the barriers to achieving it and how they can be overcome. This BWB Text is a rallying call for a genuine tourism ‘reset’ that puts the environment first and creates more meaningful exchanges between visitors and their hosts.

Because New Zealand has fairly decisively shut the door to overseas visitors it does have a real opportunity to look at tourism in a new light, post-pandemic.


Overtourism in New Zealand may have looked very different from the version which concerns European cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam or Venice, but it was certainly a genuine concern, before Covid-19 demolished that problem, temporarily at least.

The big question is what will post-pandemic tourism be like and what changes can New Zealanders bring about? Perhaps surprisingly, for all its ‘clean and green’ image, helped along in a major fashion by Lord of the Rings, New Zealand tourism actually features high carbon consumption. There are no environmentally sensitive trains bringing overseas visitors to New Zealand, almost everybody flies there and often from a great distance. Europe is 24 hours flying time away, the USA is 12 and China – a big tourist numbers provider pre-pandemic – is a similar distance. It doesn’t change after arrival, a great number of visitors, trying to pack the country into a one week visit, will be jumping on buses to head out of Auckland and then jumping on flights to head for the South Island.

▲ Flying in to clean & green Queenstown in the South Island

The major concern for New Zealand tourism is that the temptation is clearly there to wind the clock back to things as they were pre-pandemic and carry on exactly as before – after the lengthy Covid-19 shutdown. This book contends that there is an alternative, that post pandemic tourism genuinely can be clean and green. My concern, and it applies in other similar situations, is that it’s very easy to say let’s restrict the numbers and the easy way to do that is make tourism more expensive. Which means you encourage the big ticket visitors, racing around the country in as short a time as possible, taking flights and jumping on helicopters up to the glaciers. The low expenditure backpackers get shut out, even though their longer stay has less environmental impact – more walking, less flying – and puts the money into the economy at the local level.