Stewart Is. could be NZ eco-tourism jewel

Stewart Island has the potential to become New Zealands eco-tourism jewel, according to the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA).TIA wants the management plan for Rakiura National Park, being developed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), to establish a green sanctuary to rival any other eco-tourism destination in the world.In a submission to DOC, TIA calls for boldness and vision, matched with astute conservation management, to reach this goal.

Although New Zealand has an international reputation for its magnificent scenery and adventure activities, it is less well-known as an eco-tourism destination, Ms Luhrs says.

This is a chance for New Zealand to develop a world-class eco-tourism destination, attract high yield visitors and build on our reputation in offering outstanding conservation experiences, TIA Chief Executive Fiona Luhrs says.

We cannot offer the spectacular wildlife of Africa or the Galapagos Islands but we do have extraordinary bird and sealife, and unique native flora. Stewart Islands remoteness means it has retained much of its natural integrity.TIA says tourism offers an opportunity to provide an economic base and preserve Stewart Islands social fabric. It notes the Stewart Island community itself has said that increased tourism is needed to ensure the island remains economically sustainable. It is estimated that 100,000 visitors a year are needed for the community and its services to be viable an increase of 40,000 on current visitor numbers.Protecting the natural values and visitor experiences of specific places with potentially increased visitor numbers will be a challenge for both DOC and tourism operators. But with careful management, we believe the environmental footprint can be minimised, Ms Luhrs says.Tourism operators in the Rakiura National Park have a strong environmental focus, as their businesses and livelihoods rely on the way they use and care for the natural surroundings, she says.We strongly believe managed visitors are the most responsible users of the public conservation estate.TIAs submission on the Stewart Island/Rakiura Conservation Management Strategy Review and the Rakiura National Park Management Plan preparation is available at www.tianz.org.nzKey statistics about tourism: Tourism is the world’s fastest growing industry New Zealand tourism arrivals have doubled in size since 1994 to 2.38 million Forecast annual growth is 4% on average for at least the next five years Tourism is New Zealand’s single largest export sector and contributed $8.1 billion dollars to the economy in the year ended March 2004. That is 18.7% of exports Domestic tourism contributes $9.4 billion to the economy each year Tourism directly and indirectly employs 10 percent of the work force. That is one in 10 jobs in New Zealand. Tourism represents 9% of gross domestic product and generates nearly $526 million in GST returns from international visitors each year. Tourism is the only export sector whose international clients pay GST.
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