Optimal visitation report ‘ground-breaking’

Some budget travellers to centres like Queenstown end up making their lives in New Zealand, a...
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How many tourists Queenstown can handle is a central question to a new council-led investigation.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council says its investigation into "optimal visitation" is potentially internationally ground-breaking work.

In partnership with destination management organisation Destination Southern Lakes, the council is now seeking specialist consultants to study the impact of visitors on the district.

Tender documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times said the council wanted to understand the "economic, social, cultural and environmental impact" visitors had on the area.

"Queenstown Lakes is a high-growth district with an economy that is dominated by tourism.

"With a small resident population and high visitor numbers, understanding the implications of visitation is essential for making good decisions and achieving positive outcomes to meet the needs of the community," the documents said.

"Understanding optimal visitation is potentially ground-breaking work."

The visitation to the district needed to be considered alongside residential growth and the community’s acceptance of tourism.

Worker as well as visitor experience would be part of the equation.

Seasonal differences would be considered as would environmental degradation and the "cultural context", the documents said.

The idea of "optimal" visitation numbers meant the impact of the intensity level, timing and type of tourism would be measured on the environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of the area, the documents said.

Optimal visitor numbers meant tourist numbers would not exceed the capacity for different aspects, but were at their highest acceptable levels to benefit operators and "key partners".

The project was expected to provide benefits for the tourism sector, local and central government, regional tourism organisations, businesses, investors and the community.

The documents said Destination Queenstown, Lake Wānaka Tourism, Kāi Tahu, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) would be involved.

"This project is of critical strategic importance to the [district], its communities and its tourism system," they said.