Off the Top of my Head
By Paul Murray
There is quite a lot of talk at Councils and in the local media on the West Coast lately about the need for the tourism industry to be self-sustaining and not to rely on local government funding and ratepayer subsidies to support it.
Currently, tourism is without question best game in town for the West Coast. Traditional extractive West Coast industries like forestry, mining, fishing and dairy are in decline or don’t really have any additional growth potential. The people employed in those industries may choose to spend some of their wages on the Coast, and they certainly do, but much of that money is spent elsewhere and doesn’t really benefit the local economy.
Tourism, however, caters to visitors to the region and those people spend a lot when they are here. The come to visit the Coast and see the spectacular natural environment and scenery that we sometimes take for granted. When they are here, they purchase accommodation, meals, fuel, food; they spend on activities, events, visit coffee shops, purchase souvenirs…this is good for the local economy and local businesses as it enables them to operate and also to employ staff. The tourism industry supports businesses that are not directly tourism related and inadvertently helps keep Coasters employed. The supermarket staff, the butcher, the local mechanic, the service station workers, the waiting staff, the baristas, the information centre teams, the local hairdresser, the newsagent, dairy owners and many more are supported by tourism money directly and indirectly.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has determined the average daily spend for a visitor to the West Coast is $248. This figure is calculated by dividing the total visitor revenue by the number of visitors. Resident West Coasters do not support the local economy by spending this much per day, but we directly benefit from the capital introduced to our economy by tourists.
Jim Little, CEO of Tourism West Coast, said, “The latest MBIE figures show West Coast number 1 for percentage growth of expenditure at 14% to $577 million up $9 million year-to-date March 2018. The national average is 9%.” He added, “In terms of GDP contribution, tourism now number 2 on the Coast at $172 million second only to dairy on $234 million. That’s up from number five 5 years ago.” This shows the importance of tourism to the West Coast economy and also just how fast it is growing and demonstrates its potential to bring further economic prosperity to the Coast.
Many of the services and facilities we enjoy as local people would not exist without tourism. Local cafes, restaurants, service stations, pubs, museums, activity providers and scenic attractions would not be available to local people without the financial support derived from tourism. Without tourism the quality of our respective lives and the range of facilities and services we enjoy would not be available without the income tourism provides…they just would not be financially viable.
Tourism also encourages local governments to improve infrastructure to cater to the visitors. So our roads, public facilities like toilets and waste-management systems, electricity, Internet services, telephone networks etc are all improved because of tourism, the money tourists introduce to the economy and the demand for services and facilities they create.
To cater to tourists, accommodation providers must also purchase all sorts products, materials, furniture, whiteware, electrical appliances, print brochures, make signs produce advertising material etc, and all of those requirements support other non-tourism related businesses, like; furniture shops, linen suppliers, cleaning products, gardening equipment, fuel, hardware and building supplies, food and beverages, groceries and much more. All of this also supports the local economy and enables us to have such shops and businesses and suppliers available to people living on the Coast.
While tourism-related businesses may not cater directly to West Coast residents, the quality of our lives are significantly enhanced by the money visitors bring with them when they come, and the people working hard to cater to them when they are here should be supported in every possible way and the small amount of subsidisation that West Coast tourism currently receives from the Councils (via rate payers) goes a long way to maintain and improve the quality of life for Coast residents and helps keep services and facilities open and available to our people and us employed. The World Trade Organisation estimates that tourism generates an indirect contribution to the local economy equivalent to 100% of direct tourism expenditure. Please consider this when discussing tourism and the subsidies the industry receives for the benefit of us all and future generations.
Paul Murray is a Karamea-based tourism business operator and owner of:
Rongo Dinner Bed & Breakfast: http://www.Rongo.nz
Karamea Farm Baches: http://www.KarameaFarmBaches.co.nz
Karamea Connections: http://www.KarameaConnections.co.nz
Published: The Westport News May 8, 2018