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Southland to step up as international spending forecast to grow $16 billion by 2022


Southland-to-step-upInternational tourist spending in New Zealand is expected to reach $16 billion by 2022 but Southland will only get a slice of the action if the region does more to welcome overseas guests, tourism operators say.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released its New Zealand Tourism Forecast 2016 - 2022 on Thursday, outlining how many overseas visitors are expected to arrive, and how much they are expected to spend, by 2022.

The report says international visitors are expected to increase from 3.1 million last year to 4.5m a year by 2022, with expenditure increasing to $16b nationally by that year.

However, Southland tourism operators say the region will only be able to cash in on the influx if it does more to welcome overseas guests.

Figures from Venture Southland show international guest nights for March 2016 compared with the previous year rose 20.9 per cent to 133,010. Domestic guest nights rose 6.7 per cent at 304,335.

In Fiordland's international guest nights rose 16.4 per cent to 403,992, and domestic guest nights rose 2.9 per cent at 173,789.

However, some tourism providers say the region could do more to welcome international guests.  

Wairaurahiri Jet owner Johan Groters, who has operated the business from Fiordland for 22 years, said more accommodation was needed for guests to stay in Southland. 

"We have not had any Chinese visit, but we haven't had many to Southland. It is because of the accommodation in Southland

By 2022 Wairaurahiri Jet would definitely expand, Groters said. 

"It has been increasing quite quickly. There had been a gradual increase but it has accelerated in the last three years." 

Bravo Kiwi Spotting owner Phillip Smith, who has operated on Stewart Island for 26 years, said there was no influx of travellers to the island and he believed visitors had decreased.

"It's not much different from one year to another. There's no boom here." 

It appeared fewer international tourists crossed Foveaux Strait because they did not favour small boats and aircraft, Smith said. 

Bill Richardson Transport World operations manager Sally McDonald said the museum had been developing relationships within the tourism trade by attending events such as TRENZ this week.

In the museum's first six months of operation, the Transport World had attracted 30 per cent international, 50 per cent national, 20 per cent local visitors, McDonald said. 

While she believed generally there was enough accommodation in Invercargill, at peak times it could become scarce, she said.

"However, during peak tourist season and large regional events accommodation can become scarce, not unlike other areas of the country."  

Venture Southland tourism team leader Warrick Low said international visitors to Southland had described it as a boutique destination. 

"People come to Invercargill and Southland because it's not just souvenir after souvenir shops, like in Auckland or Queenstown." 

Instead Southland was conservative, Low said. 

"We're not as flashy and showy and we're very genuine. Whether it's a guide, or people in the shop or food they want to try."

The south could do with more accommodation, he said. 

Invercargill Licensing Trust general manager Greg Mulvey said the ILT was actively engaged to market tourism. 

The Southland Times Esk St site in Invercargill is the ILT's target site for a new hotel in the city. 

"Our opportunity to have more hotel accommodation in the city is based on the prediction the tourist numbers are going to significantly increase, and they will need to for us to justify building accommodation." 

Australia is New Zealand's largest visitor market, providing more than 1.3 million visitors in 2015. 

MBIE's announcement comes after Hawkins director Jim Boult told an audience on Monday Southland and Fiordland could double annual tourism spending in the region from $460m to $1 billion by 2021. 

MBIE spokesman Michael Bird said said a key market for New Zealand tourism was China. 

"Our tourism forecasts predict that China will be New Zealand's largest market in terms of expenditure within the next two years, surpassing Australia."