Minister gets acquainted with southern tourism

Associate Tourism Minister Todd McClay said the Government was aware of visa delays for temporary and migrant workers in Queenstown.

Mr McClay was in Queenstown yesterday on a familiarisation trip under his new tourism brief after the appointment in January.

He met Destination Queenstown representatives and tourism operators, and took a trip with Nomad Safaris after making a speech to the Institute of Financial Advisers.

Speaking to media, he said he was getting to grips with the new job.

The China tourism market was changing after the Chinese government cracked down on visas for budget shopping tours.

Despite the overall numbers of Chinese visitors declining, there was evidence that more free and independent travellers were visiting New Zealand.

The number of bed nights was increasing, indicating that Chinese tourists were spending more and staying longer.

"That affords us real opportunities. The challenge is how we ensure they get the experience they wanted. Tourism is just part of the economy, it's about jobs and supporting local businesses."

When asked about the threat of closure for the Immigration New Zealand Queenstown office and delays in visa processing for temporary and migrant workers, Mr McClay said he was aware the immigration minister was considering the matter.

"We want to make sure we can facilitate and assist and make sure that's balanced so some of the lines around that are drawn.

"We have gone through a difficult period. The Government is looking at putting processes in place to get through what for much of the world has been a crisis."

The Immigration office in Queenstown was struggling to cope with an increase in demand for temporary visas late last year and recruited extra staff from other branches and transferred applications.

The Queenstown office manager stepped down from the role last year and the resort branch was run by a Dunedin-based manager.

The Southland Times