Last year, New Zealand upped the price for international visitors to its Great Walks. A year on, the trial has raised a shit tonne of money but resulted in a huge decrease in overseas visitors who have literally been priced out of the experience.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) introduced the trial last summer, charging overseas visitors a whopping $140 per night for a hut on the Milford track, $130 on the Kepler and Routeburn, and $75 a night on the Abel Tasman track. New Zealanders paid half of that, with under-18s being free of charge.

What’s the point of the price rise?

Here’s what they were hoping to achieve:

  • Improve access to the Great Walks for people usually resident in New Zealand
  • Increase the proportion of costs that are received from international users
  • Charge international visitors a fee that more fairly reflects the high value of the experience

So…has it worked?

The trial netted the DOC a not-to-be-sniffed-at $2.4m, with a 37% increase in New Zealand adults hitting the trails. That’s the highest number of New Zealanders in the last six years.

But on the flip side, there was a huge drop in overseas visitors. The total was 71,901 compared to 104,189 the year before.

The extra $2.4 million from the trial will be used to maintain the tracks so the DOC can focus its funding on core conservation work.

What’s next?

The DOC plans to re-run the trial this season, but I think it’s probably not too much of a jump to say that prices will likely remain like this for the foreseeable future.

What do you think? Is it a good thing that they’re raising extra money for maintenance and conservation? Or a bad thing that Great Walks have become accessible only to an elite (*cough* rich) few?


Feature image by Nicholas Di Genni

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