The decision to charge tourists more to do Aotearoa's great walks is labelled a success by the Department of Conservation as it's allowing more New Zealanders to make it out on to the tracks.
DOC’s director of heritage and visitors Steve Taylor spoke to TVNZ1's Breakfast today after the peak periods for the Milford Track were booked out in seconds when it was made available on Tuesday morning.
"We had about 2000 poised at their keyboards when these tracks came on, very quickly they were booked up, 80 per cent was booked up but that’s not completely booked out, there is still a bit of time there outside those peak periods," Taylor said.
Despite the huge demand for the walks, Mr Taylor maintained that charging tourists more was working with Kiwis now making up around just over 50 per cent of people out on the tracks.
"Early indications are that more New Zealanders coming back into the walks which is good, I think we’ve had a gradual increase in the last year of New Zealanders returning to those walks which is great to see, probably about 53 per cent or 54 per cent New Zealanders.”
DOC was mindful not to scare vital international tourism away though, Mr Taylor said.
"We’re conscious, we want to maintain that right price point for international visitors, we certainly don’t want to scare them away, but I think we’re finding a pretty good balance at the moment."
Taylor said DOC was also keeping a close eye on the satisfaction levels of tourists, which had remained high despite the increase in price.
"It’s certainly something we’re putting a lot of attention to, we’ve changed a bit of our structure in the department (DOC) in recent times to put increased focus on what we call regional focus planning and national planning to understand where the visitor flows, where the international pressures are.
"To ensure that we’re actually providing for the right sort of visitor experiences."