Early results for DOC’s Great Walk pricing trial show numbers are up, but not for tourists.
The seven month trial introduced a pricing differential for international visitors booking huts and campsites on DOC’s four most popular Great Walks, the Milford, Kepler, Routeburn and Abel Tasman tracks.
During the trial, which began last October, overseas trampers will pay twice as much as New Zealand trampers. Preliminary results show an overall increase in bed nights across all Great Walks compared to 2017, DOC director of recreation, tourism and heritage Gavin Walker said.
“Initial data up to September 30, 2018 shows bednight bookings on the four trial walks increased by nine per cent compared to last year, so the trial does not seem to have impacted overall demand on these walks so far.
“The proportion of people living in New Zealand booking accommodation on the four trial walks increased from 45 per cent to 57 per cent, bookings for international visitors decreased by 14 per cent and bookings for New Zealand children increased by 14 per cent.”
While the decrease in international visitor bookings may be correlated to the price increase, it is too early to draw conclusions.
“It’s not sensible for us to pre-empt the results of the trial while it’s underway,” Walker said.
“These figures are very likely to change quite a bit. The trend we see each year is that New Zealanders book in early to get holidays and long weekends and international visitors tend to fill in the gaps as the season progresses.”
Keen tramper Stewart Brown of Auckland would like to see more Kiwis on Great Walks, but felt the fee hike had been too extreme.
“I have an issue with making New Zealand so expensive for foreigners – I think of all the places I have travelled and the walks in Europe I have done and think New Zealand is being unfair in pushing this so hard,” he said.
Brown booked the Kepler Track for himself and four Australian friends, and was shocked to see the Australians quoted $150 for one night, including GST.
“My friends could afford these costs but so many others can’t – it wasn’t my friends complaining, it was me,” Brown said.
“Fiordland is a treasure but being reasonable would maybe have resulted in a GST inclusive fee of $50-80 in my view.”
Walker is pleased to see domestic bookings are up by 10 per cent across all Great Walks, not just the trial ones.
“The percentage of New Zealanders on non-trial walks is actually higher than on the walks within the differential pricing trial,” he said.
An independent contractor will evaluate the pricing trial, and a report is expected to be completed in April.