This week we have seen renewed calls for local authorities to invest in infrastructure to support our country's number one export earner - tourism, writes ChristchurchNZ Industry Partnerships Manager Caroline Blanchfield in a Stuff Opinion Piece (23 Feb 2018).
Tourism contributes $3.5 billion to the Canterbury economy, creating jobs and wealth across the country, including smaller towns and rural areas where pristine scenery underpins our international brand of 100 per cent pure New Zealand.
As tourism numbers increase, to the benefit of us all and future generations, how do we ensure we collectively manage our offering in a sustainable way?
This is a challenge for us all, as increasingly there has been nationwide negative media coverage - freedom camping comes to mind. As a city and region, we can't afford to be complacent.
We need to get the balance right.
Tourism New Zealand is working offshore collaboratively with regional tourism organisations such as ChristchurchNZ.
We make sure international visitors understand the vast array of awesome opportunities and experiences that await them when they reach our shores.
We all have more to do together to ensure our destination management is planned in a sustainable way by local authorities, tourism operators and the wider community.
We want tourism to be an economic enabler to the benefit of future generations. But growth must be managed in a way that is positive for our communities. It is what sets our region and country apart in the minds of international visitors.
New Zealand is a country with open hearts, open minds and open spaces and that is true in Canterbury, where we like to try new things.
The New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment aims to see every New Zealand tourism business committed to sustainability by 2025.
Those signed up to the pledge have a vision to lead the world in sustainable tourism.
Christchurch is signed up to deliver, act with bold ambition, connect people, and grow confidence to achieve sustainability goals.
The commitments are based around economics, visitors, host communities and the environment.
Economically, the aim is to build visitor numbers in the off-peak season so they complement our strong summers. Councils and those in the industry need to find new ways to make our visitors feel welcome and improve their experience here.
As a host community we need to support our businesses and workforce to flourish and succeed.
Environmentally, we must engage our visitors and communities on the importance of restoring, protecting and enhancing New Zealand's natural environment.
A recent example was the introduction of a campervan friendly day park on the corner of Gloucester and Manchester Streets.
The purpose is to encourage visitors driving large campervans back in the central business district, encouraging them to linger, and spend and enjoy all that our new central city offers – creating lasting impressions to share with friends and family.
We need to work with bold ambition to ensure our destination management matches the success of our marketing offshore to future-proof our environment and tourism sector.
But we also need to take our community with us. We want residents to be proud of all our city and region, and play their part in giving visitors a great experience when they choose to come to our city of opportunity.
We're all in this together.