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Statistics New Zealand’s figures last week showed tourism had overtaken dairy as the country’s largest export earner.

And although visitor numbers have continued to rise slowly through the economic downturn, the industry admits that some parts of the country remain unconvinced about tourism’s value to the economy, according to Stuff.co.nz.

Hence the government has commissioned a major study into the spending patterns of international visitors in an attempt to document the economics of tourism.

Economics consultancy company Covec has been commissioned by The Economic Development Ministry and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to conduct a three-year study into how different types of visitors spend money and how the spending filters through to the economy.

Simon Wallace, policy and research manager at the Tourism Industry Authority was quoted saying that some councils still viewed visitors as “a liability” because of the added pressure on public services.

The study will focus on three large and growing tourist sectors: visitors from cruise ships, foreign students and visitors who hire campervans.

Although research has been conducted for years into how much tourists spend, little is known about where the money is spent or how profitable it is to the wider New Zealand economy.

Covec director Shane Vuletich said although there were obvious beneficiaries from international visitors, such as accommodation providers and tour operators, there was a large but less well understood spillover impact from the sector which provided benefits to the general economy and public.

These included premium restaurants, retailers being sustained by tourist spending, and subsidy tourist spending provided towards the costs of managing the Conservation Department estate.

While the Rugby World Cup may run at a loss, New Zealand was able to host the event because of the boost visitors would provide to the economy, Vuletich was quoted saying.

The research will provide financial models for the different tourism sectors which could show that some lower-spending tourists actually have a wider impact on the general economy than others.

Wallace said the figures would provide empirical evidence for the industry to prove that many sectors in the New Zealand economy benefited from tourism, beyond the industry itself. –Source: Stuff.co.nz

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