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A major study of the tourism industry shows businesses are confident the boom will continue but remain worried about infrastructure gaps and a shortage of Kiwis to work in the sector.

The survey of more than 350 businesses for Tourism Industry Aotearoa finds 62 per cent of businesses expect their results will improve during the next year in a sector that is the country's top foreign exchange earner.

In the year ended March 2017 international arrivals were up 8.9 per cent to more 3.5 million, the fifth successive year of growth. Overall visitor spend is rising at a slower rate, up 1.9 per cent to $35.9 billion. And while domestic spend was up 4 per cent to $21.4b, international spending weakened 0.9 per cent to $14.5b in the period studied by the Wellington Institute of Technology.

In spite of a change in marketing strategy to attract visitors at off-peak times and away from top tourist destinations, there had been no significant progress since 2014 on increasing the visitor spend in the regions or on altering international visitors' seasonal travel patterns.

And visitor experience data shows there are slipping levels of satisfaction although they remain very high. This country met or exceeded expectations among 95 per cent of visitors in 2015 but this had slipped to 93.4 per cent last year.

The report finds that while infrastructure rates highly or air and tourist service infrastructure — 15th and 19th respectively — port and ground infrastructure is well down the World Economic Forum ranking in 50th place.

''Survey responses not only suggest the impact of inadequate infrastructure constrains growth but it also has a negative effect on the visitor experience,'' said the report authored by tourism lecturer Jamie Smiler.

''International visitors have many destination options and they want to move easily through a destination.''

Infrastructure was of strategic importance for New Zealand's global competitiveness and a theme of comments from respondents suggested that more central Government funding should come from GST collected from visitors with budget allocations based on tourism's contribution to the economy and border taxes.

The Auckland Council targeted rate on commercial accommodation providers - which is used to partly fund tourism promotion - was seen as offering very little value to the industry.

(Source NZHerald, Grant Bradley)

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