Tourism vital for Otago

Otago's economy relies on tourism more than any other region in the country, the Tourism Industry Association says.

The association's election manifesto, released yesterday, shows about a quarter (25.2%) of the region's gross domestic product (GDP) came from tourism.

It revealed the annual spend by international and domestic visitors to Otago was $2.17 billion - greater than Canterbury's $2.099 billion or Wellington's $1.934 billion, which were between 7% and 11% of those regions' GDP.

The figures also showed more than one in 10 (10.3%) full-time jobs held by Clutha district residents were supported by tourism.

The industry also supported 9.6% of residents' jobs in the Central Otago district, 9.1% in the Waitaki district, 9% in the Queenstown-Lakes district and 8.8% in Dunedin.

''This highlights that tourism is a significant and valuable part of the region's economy,'' association chief executive Chris Roberts said.

''We know that tourism supports regional communities across New Zealand, driving regional economic growth and creating employment opportunitites.''

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said the figures came as no surprise.

''It highlights how important tourism is. It is not only important in our region but Queenstown is an important part of the national picture.''

Because of that there needed to be investment in infrastructure to support the industry.

''It's really critical.''

An example was the long wait to get the one-lane Kawarau Falls bridge at Frankton upgraded or further improvements to State Highway 6 through the Kawarau Gorge.

''We have not really had full support for the growth in visitor numbers we now have and anticipate continuing to get.''

While the figures only suggested 9.9% of jobs were supported by tourism in Queenstown, it was a lot higher than that, as they did not include part-time work or that done by non-residents, both of which were a significant part of the town's workforce, he said.

Suz Arthur, from Enterprise Dunedin, said with $205 million added to Dunedin's GDP in 2013 and 3024 people employed in tourism, the industry was an important economic driver in the city.

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