Foreign tourists to pay double when hiking New Zealand’s great walks

Tourists will have to pay extra to use huts and campsites, with the money going towards maintenance

Visitors to New Zealand will soon be charged double the price locals pay for accommodation on four of New Zealand’s most popular great walks.

As part of a trial to be introduced in October, the government will see if it can raise extra money to maintain the quality of the hikes without affecting its own nationals.

Hiking is a major tourist draw for the Pacific nation.

Eugenie Sage, the conservation minister, said: “New Zealand’s nine great walks are premier tracks that pass through unique and spectacular scenery and are a magnet for international visitors.

“It is also part of setting and maintaining a fair pricing system for New Zealanders.”

Foreign tourists to pay double when hiking New Zealand’s great walks – Shutterstock
The Milford route is to be one of the hikes affected by the pricing changes – Shutterstock

1.75 million people visited a national park last season, a figure that is roughly half the current number of foreign tourists. 60 per cent of visitors to the parks are international. Tourism directly contributes NZ$14.7 billion ($10 billion) to the country’s coffers – 5.9 per cent of GDP – with a further NZ$11.3 billion ($8 billion) received indirectly.

By 2023, five million international tourists are expected to visit the country.

The trial will last for seven months and the New Zealand government hopes that it will provide information about how effective such a charge would be in raising revenue and combatting overtourism.

The news follows the confirmation that a tourist tax would be brought in by the government, one of the pledges contained in their manifesto. Tourism minister Kelvin Davis said at a conference in May that this would be NZ$25 ($17), although there has been no information about how it would be implemented. It is likely it may be added to airfares.

Sage announced the trail at the Abel Tasman National Park on Saturday.

Foreign tourists to pay double when hiking New Zealand’s great walks – Shutterstock
New Zealand’s walks are considered to be among some of the most beautiful in the world – Shutterstock

Foreign tourists, including children, will be charged NZ$140 ($99) per night on the Milford track, NZ$130 ($92) per night on the Kepler and Routeburn, and NZ$75 ($53) per night on the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk.

Prices for locals will remain the same, and under-18s from New Zealand will still be able to sleep free of charge.

“I think people realise that places like the Milford are premier destinations but we’re not charging for these premier experiences – it costs the [Department of Conservation] nearly NZ$3.8 million more to maintain these tracks than it gets in revenue each year, so there is a big gap there,” Sage said.

“The increased accommodation fees may also encourage overseas visitors to use less visited great walks where prices remain the same.”

Locals are defined as citizens and ordinarily residents with a residency visa or who have lived in New Zealand for six out of the past twelve months.

Anyone claiming the lower fees will have their status checked as they purchase their ticket, and wardens will enforce checks on the walks.

The new pricing structure is expected to bring an extra NZ$2.9 million ($2 million) over the trial period. It is not expected to significantly reduce the number of hikers on the trails.

Prices on Lake Waikaremoana, the Tongariro Northern Circuit, the Whanganui Journey, the Heaphy Track, the Rakiura Track, and the Paparoa Track will not change.