More New Zealanders voice concern at record tourist numbers

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A growing number of New Zealanders feel the country is attracting too many tourists, as record numbers of visitors put the environment and infrastructure under pressure, according to a tourism industry survey .

When told the country drew a record 3.4 million tourists over the past year, 19 percent of respondents said they felt that was too many, according to the survey by the Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) and the government’s Tourism New Zealand agency.

That figure was up from 13 percent in the same survey a year ago.

However New Zealanders generally felt positive about the fast-growing tourism industry, with more than a quarter believing the country received too few visitors, said a statement from the two organizations.

The latest survey was conducted in November with the majority of responses received before the Kaikoura earthquake that killed two people on Nov. 14.

Compared to the previous surveys, New Zealanders’ understanding of the size and importance of the tourism industry had improved slightly although most continued to underestimate the number of international visitors arriving each year.

The main benefits of international tourism were considered to be business opportunities and economic growth.

Road accidents and traffic congestion were the top concerns of survey respondents, followed by overcrowding, a lack of infrastructure and environmental impacts.

“These latest results reinforce the issue we have been aware of and targeting for some time – that growth in international tourism is putting pressure on some communities,” Tourism New Zealand acting chief executive Brighid Kelly said in the statment.

“We believe concerns are exacerbated by our visitor concentration in summer and at key tourist hot spots.”

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said the industry and government were working together to address the concerns raised in the survey, such as the safety of visiting drivers.

“We are championing the provision of tourism infrastructure to support tourism value growth, including researching future infrastructure needs and funding options,” Roberts said in the statement.

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