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Speech from our CEO, Rebecca Ingram, at the TIA Election Forum

16 August 2023

Monday's Election Forum was a huge success with 50+ onsite attendees and another 200+ online attendees.

TIA's Rebecca Ingram discusses the significance of a national policy statement on tourism and how it will shape the future of the industry. 

Nga mihi Corin, and kia ora e te whanau in the room and beaming in from across Aotearoa New Zealand. 

All parts of the tourism ecosystem are tuned into to this discussion today - we are a broad, talented and impactful industry ready to hear, understand and reflect on the various parties’ aspirations for tourism. 


I’d like to start by acknowledging our guests:

Angela, Ricardo, Joseph, Lee, James and Natalia. We are delighted to have representation from across the political spectrum at today’s forum. By being here you are recognising the significant contribution of our experience economy to NZ and the potential of tourism to springboard our economy and  communities. 

I’d also like to acknowledge Dame Kerry Prendergast, Chair of TIA who is joining online, and Matt Clarke, the CEO of Wellington Airport. Wellington Airport has partnered with TIA to enable today’s important discussion. 

Wellington Airport has recently released their Kaitiakitanga report which includes a plan to achieve net zero emissions for the airport’s operations by 2030 and reducing waste and water use 30% by 2030, along with supporting airlines to decarbonise with new sustainable technologies. Nga mihi Matt and the team for providing a platform for the industry to hear directly from parties in the lead up to this important and already very interesting election. 


So why is a specific conversation about tourism important?

Tourism is a people business. The tourism economy employs 275,300 or 9.5 per cent of the workforce. That’s households, communities, families that are supported directly by this industry. Tourism is a substantial export earner. And it’s a win-win. People love coming here. And Kiwis love having them.  The recent Views of New Zealanders survey in May this year found that almost 90 percent of those surveyed agreed tourism was good for New Zealand.

The industry is rebuilding and we are looking forward to a strong second summer. But already we can see that tourism in the future is not going to be same as it was before. And this makes it an appropriate time to look afresh at what is best for our industry, our visitors and the country as a whole.

As one leading tourism operator wrote recently, “Tourism and the environment are intrinsically linked. “We know that whatever shape our industry takes in the future, it has to be sustainable and environmentally sensitive.” In a nutshell, we know our visitors come here for our spectacular sights, so restoring our environment is a must.  Our industry exists to show our guests a great time. Our satisfaction rates are high – nearly 90 % of international visitors indicate their time in NZ met or exceeded their expectations.

But we also want them to have a meaningful visit. Authentic tourism, the type that helps people find out what makes Aotearoa New Zealand unique – is what we aspire to - not a cookie-cutter experience they can have elsewhere.

At the same time, we also want to a good ratio of domestic to international visitors, and to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand remains a great place for kiwis to holiday as well. Finally, we know tourism operators want to give back to the communities they are part of. It’s in line with our belief that we want to be good citizens, contributing not just economically but to the way of life around us. The paradigm shift we are talking about still involves a healthy and prosperous tourism industry, but increasingly we are shifting towards a more regenerative and holistic future. It’s not just about keeping our industry afloat but lifting all boats.


The world is a much more unpredictable place.

Wildfires in Greece and Hawaii, heatwaves in Europe, and our own floods and cyclones earlier this year have taught us that climate change has arrived and that will of course affect tourism. In this unpredictable world, we have to acknowledge that tourism must adjust to the winds of change. 

Today we are releasing for consultation a draft industry strategy called Tourism 2050: A Blueprint for Impact. This will replace the strategy that we currently have to 2025. It has been led by TIA, with support from PwC and an industry development group, and it lays out this better future - one which will be much more sensitive to its impact on its community and the environment, and more aware of the need to represent our cultural heritage. I encourage everyone here and online to get their copy from


The blueprint lays out 4 outcomes and 10 actions we would like to achieve. Our aspirations include: 

  • Reducing our carbon footprint
  • Upskilling our workforce and enhancing productivity
  • Helping operators to be more sustainable, and make a real contribution to our biodiversity by acting on predator free
  • Embedding te Ao Māori more deeply in the visitor industry and experience
  • Developing new funding mechanisms for data, research and other industry good work 


So what will this future face of tourism look like?

It will be prosperous. Nature will be flourishing as the industry seeks to reduce its environmental footprint and enhance Te Taiao. There will be new ways of travelling with aviation advances which will take carbon out of the travel equation.

Advances that are being spearheaded by our own national carrier. Visitors will continue to have world-best experiences with value created from personalised and technology-supported travel options. And Māori culture will increasingly be recognised as our key point of difference as a visitor destination. Goals like these cannot be reached without action.

Some of our specific actions are:

  • To be net carbon zero before 2050, and we will seek to partner with Government to establish a tourism decarbonisation roadmap which may bring this target forward.
  • And one thing we’d particularly like to see is a national policy statement on tourism. 

We have National Policy Statements in other areas such as freshwater management and urban development. There are Government Policy Statements in place or underway for land transport, immigration and health. We also need a better way of funding local infrastructure and industry good work and research.

Some regions are currently exploring their own bed tax or levies, but we think a national funding solution, not an ad hoc one, would be best. By 2050 we ultimately want to have a strong and unified tourism industry, one that is committed to leading the world in sustainable, regenerative tourism. It is a tall order, but TIA believes it is achievable with the help of our operators, the Government and Kiwis themselves. 


And that’s why today’s conversation matters.

We are an industry with ambition, ambition for our contribution to New Zealand. We look forward to hearing what the parties here today can do to help us get to this place.


Thank you to our Discussing Tourism Election Forum Partner, Wellington International Airport, for their generous support of this event.






Thanks to our strategic partners

Thanks to our strategic partners

Thanks to our strategic partners