The country may attract only the “old rich set” and risks becoming known as “boring and staid” if it targets wealthy visitors, the Youth Hostels Association says.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has outlined his plans to ban the hiring of campervans that have no toilet on board, and to focus on high-value visitors.

His comments have caused a stir in the sector he’s now in charge of.

Nash has made no apology for that, telling RNZ this week that he understood backpackers were an important part of tourism in Aotearoa but he wanted to see more work aimed to attract wealthier tourists.

The Youth Hostels Association (YHA) has published an open letter to Nash, saying the youth market’s significance to the New Zealand economy should not be understated.

It says young travellers historically inject $1.5 billion a year into the economy, the most by any age group.

YHA executive Brian Westwood told Morning Report that while Nash was on the right path in referring to high-value visitors, the definition of high value needed to be carefully understood in terms of an impact on the economy.

“And also looking at the structure of what the current tourism industry looks like and the impact of making such a dramatic shift and making statements that basically turn your back on the youth sector which is a quarter of all visitor arrivals is not a particularly good move at the moment.”

New Zealand has marketed itself as an adventure tourism capital and part of the YHA’s concern is that if it moves away from marketing itself as a vibrant, innovative country it ran the risk of “becoming the Florida of the South Pacific, just appealing to the old rich set and becoming a bit boring and staid”.

“The reality is that economically the youth market makes up $1.5 billion of the international foreign earnings and to turn your back on that is crazy.”


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