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Rotorua tourism operator says 'high-value' focus should mean more than just prioritising wealthy visitors

The tourism industry is welcoming the newly appointed minister's vision for the sector, which focuses on attracting "high-value" tourists, but one Rotorua tourism operator says it should mean more than prioritising wealthy visitors.

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Tukurua Mutu spoke of taking backpackers to a small Bay of Plenty marae where they did conservation work. Source: Breakfast

Tukurua Mutu, co-owner of luxury adventure operator MDA Experiences, agrees with Stuart Nash’s wholesale approach but argues how “high-value” should be defined.

“We should be bringing high value people into New Zealand, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that,” he said.

“I think there might be different definitions of what high value means though.”

Making people pay more to come into New Zealand was not a solution, Mutu believed.

“We should be looking at the luxury sector, I’ve got a personal bias there, that is the biggest part of my business.”

Mutu said another one of his businesses was an example of an alternative definition of value.

“My brother and I own an educational tour company which works in that backpacking, youth sector.

“Sure, they’re not bringing in a lot of money but they’re bringing in other values too.”

“We go out to a little marae out in Opotiki called Roimata and it’s the only visitors they get out there, we stay out there for three days, we bring money out there.”

“We also bring an exchange of culture out there.”

International students then go on to do conservation work as a part of their experience, Mutu said.

“We do trail maintenance, we do pest control, we do things like that

We really have to look at what value is, what is the value of a backpacker tourist who might not be spending much but does a 100 days of conservation work.”

“There is value in that as well, so we got to be really clear about that definition of high value.”

Tourism Industry Aotearoa head Chris Roberts said domestic tourism would help many in the industry survive over the summer.

Later summer and winter, when international tourists are important, was a period that was worrying operators if the border stayed closed, Roberts said.