by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, March 22, 2017
New Zealand is struggling to keep up with its growing popularity, with the number of tourists surpassing the number of hotel beds available.
The country’s tourist board had forecast for around 3.1 million annual arrivals by 2017, but instead welcomed more than 3.5 million people in the 12 months preceding January, a growth of 12 per cent from the same period last year. By 2022, 4.5 million visitors are expected from abroad each year.
But there is growing concern that travellers will have nowhere to sleep.
“We simply don’t have enough hotel rooms in our current inventory to cope with this level of growth in the tourism sector,” said Dean Humphries, national director of hotels at property developers Colliers International.
“If immediate solutions are not found, it is unlikely we will continue to grow at current levels.
“In fact, in Auckland where rooms are in critically short supply, hotel inventory has been shrinking with a number of hotels closed for refurbishment and up to 500 serviced apartment units having been taken out of the short-stay accommodation pool and put towards alternative uses by private investors and first home buyers.”
He said the number of rooms in the North Island city has shrunk from 9,500 to 9,200, and that a further 3,000 were needed by 2020. “If we are going to continue to see more tourists come into the country, where do they go?” he said.
A study commissioned last year found that there was a “critical shortage of hotel rooms during high demand periods in the five focus regions” of Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown. It said that high occupancy rates were pushing up prices, with room rates rising nine per cent from 2015 to 2016.
The accommodation shortage was put into context last month when a group of 53 elderly American tourists had to sleep in a traditional Maori meeting house after a delayed flight left them traipsing around Auckland to unable to find available hotel rooms.
“We were joking with them that it was a bit like being young again at an American holiday camp,” Jenny Nuku, treasurer of the Maori community centre, told Bloomberg.
That New Zealand is drawing more and more tourists to its shores will come as no surprise to Telegraph Travel readers, who have voted it the best country in the world four years in a row. Some 200,000 Britons visit New Zealand annually, but the country’s tourism ministry has identified China and Australia as its key markets over the next few years.
Holidaymakers visit for the landscapes that “make you want to applaud”, according to Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; the islands’ Maori culture and heritage; and the broad array of activities - some more extreme than others - available to thrill-seekers.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, a government agency, Tourism NZ and the ministry of business are working with local councils and the private sector to identify sites for more hotels in each of the five areas mentioned above.