Tourism pledge welcomed

A pledge by Prime Minister John Key yesterday to spend an additional $158 million over four years on tourism was welcomed by the country's national carrier, Air New Zealand.

In a pre-Budget speech, Mr Key said achieving growth in tourism earnings required targeted investment to position New Zealand as a high-value destination in markets with real potential for growth.

Air New Zealand, which is more than 70% owned by the Government, said a third of all international visitors flying into New Zealand arrived on Air NZ. Chief executive Christopher Luxton said the $158 million was a significant investment in growing tourism export earnings to New Zealand which would have positive affects in terms of employment and visitor expenditure throughout the country.

The airline already worked in partnership with Tourism New Zealand to promote tourism to New Zealand, most recently in highly successful activity to promote New Zealand as the filming location for The Hobbit movies.

''We have seen online sales increase in several markets as a result of Air NZ's and Tourism New Zealand's marketing activity around the movie,'' Mr Luxton said.

Tourism was New Zealand's second-largest export earner after the dairy industry, generating $9.6 billion in export earnings in the year ended March 2012. More than 2.5 million international visitors arrived in New Zealand in the year to February 2013.

Mr Key, who is also Tourism Minister, said he would release more details of the spending at the Trenz conference later this week.

''However, I can advise the package of funding will accelerate the work already under way in attracting high-value tourists and supporting and growing emerging and existing markets.''

The spending would also be utilised to encourage innovation, bring international events to New Zealand and simplify visa processes, he said.

As is the case before the traditional May release of Budgets, Mr Key used a speech to a business audience to release some details of the the Government's intentions.

The Budget would be a ''package'' of internationally focused growth initiatives, he said.

New Zealand's prosperity was highly dependent on the country's ability to form and maintain strong links with countries around the world.

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