Susanne Becken Susanne Becken

Success by numbers?

We are facing existential crises, yet we are still measuring our tourism success in volume terms.


There needs to be a new paradigm in the way we do business, Professor of sustainable tourism and DOC principal science investment advisor for tourism, Susanne Becken, told the TIA Tourism Summit 2019, in Wellington this week. While New Zealand is known for leading the world in terms of tourism sustainability, Becken says we also have the world’s largest carbon footprint, in terms of CO2 emissions from passenger aviation. At the same time the no-fly ‘Flight Shame’ movement is growing momentum, in particular in Scandanavian countries, as airlines continue to grapple with technologies and alternative fuels to reduce emissions. Becken says climate change damage, for example forest fire, drought and coastal erosion, is mounting. ‘Rather than sit and wait (for new technologies) it’s better to manage up front.


‘Tourism needs to be more about experiences, be regenerative and give back.’ Becken notes examples such as Rotorua’s Canopy Tours, for its conservation programme, and Kohutapu Lodge, for the return it gives to the local Murupara community. She highlights TIME magazine’s The World’s Greatest 100 Places of 2019’, which include Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Becken also notes international examples, such as ‘Preservation Faroe Islands’, where the North Atlantic archipelago ‘closed for a weekend’ allowing only tourists who volunteered to help with tracks and maintenance. ‘We must have social licence, more seasonal and regional dispersion and less outbound travel. Domestic tourism will become important, and bring support to the regions from people in cities.’ New Zealand’s infrastructure must also become more resilient to climate change, says Becken. ‘We may have to invest in new transport systems and retreat from some of the places we currently operate from; for example coastal campgrounds, and some of our airports are at sea level.


_ By Kathy Ombler