Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki
Partnerships, Historic & Visitor Unit
This report outlines the key trends affecting recreation and tourism both nationally and in Tongariro
Whanganui Taranaki Conservancy. It has been written for Department of Conservation staff, contractors
and local stakeholders and is intended to provide supplementary information to support the Regional
Tourism Trends and Opportunities report being prepared by Angus & Associates.
Five broad topics with short and long term effects on recreation and tourism are discussed in the report.
Each chapter covers the major sources of available information drawing on both publically available data,
summarised at the beginning of each chapter.
This section outlines the major sources of information regarding the number and origin of international
for park and nature based activities are also discussed.
The available information suggests that international tourism is changing and will continue to do so. The
shorter trips. The mix of visitors is also changing with increasing numbers of visitors from China and
Australia and a sharp decline in some of New Zealand’s traditional markets including the UK, USA, Japan
and South Korea. This trend is forecast to continue over the next 5 years.
While park and nature based experiences remain popular the changing mix of international visitors
international visitors for many areas of public conservation land, particularly those that are distant from
Auckland (and other main entry ports), or from major attractions and travel routes. The various data
sources are discussed in more detail below.
Growth in international visitor arrivals (Statistics New Zealand 2009, Ministry of Business,
Innovation & Employment 2013c) has slowed after a long period of rapid growth that finished in
2004. There were 2,564,618 international visitor arrivals in 2012 which was 21.8% higher than in 2003
but down slightly (-1.4%) on 2011 (Figure 1).
While the number of international visitor arrivals has increased the mix of visitors has changed
The number of arrivals from Australia, New Zealand’s largest market, continues to grow.
Australian visitor arrivals increased by 27.9% between 2006 and 2012.
The Chinese market has grown by 86.4% over the same period to become New Zealand’s
second largest source of overseas visitors in 2012. In 2006 China was New Zealand’s 6
Visitor arrivals from four of New Zealand’s traditional markets have declined sharply. These
United Kingdom -35.7%
South Korea -52.5%
The mean length of stay for overseas visitors to New Zealand in 2012 was 19.1 days. The mean figures
are skewed by long stay visitors (e.g. those on working holidays) however, and the median length of
stay is a more useful indicator. In 2012 the median length of stay for international visitors was only 9
days (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013d). Both the median and mean length of
stay in 2012 were 1 day lower than in 2010 (Ministry of Economic Development 2011).
Length of stay for different overseas markets varies widely (Table 1). For example the median length
Business, Innovation & Employment 2013d). These differences and the changing mix of visitors are
likely to be behind the reduction in average length of stay. This could be caused, for example, by
there being fewer long stay visitors from the UK, more short stay visitors from China along with a
tendency for Australian visitors to take shorter trips.
A decrease in length of stay means that visitors will tend not to travel as far from Auckland, the main
Median stay (days)
(Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013f). In 2012 the average spend by international
visitors (Table 2) during their trip (excluding international airfares) was $2300 and the median spend
was $1400 (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013d).
Japan $4100 $2600
The Commercial Accommodation Monitor (Figure 4) provides another indicator of overall tourism
activity. Despite the increase in the number of visitor arrivals, commercial guest nights from
international visitors declined by 10.8% between 2008 and 2012 (Statistics New Zealand 2013). This
again reflects the shorter stays and changing tourism market.
International tourism forecasts
The changes to tourism markets outlined above are forecast to continue in the short to medium term
according to forecasts released in November 2012 (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2012).
Total visitor numbers are expected to increase by 28% between 2011 and 2018 but the mix of visitors will
be different. It is expected that traditional markets such as the United Kingdom and United States will
continue to decline but this will be offset by strong growth in the Australian and Chinese markets. Visitor
spending is predicted to increase by 9% and return to pre-global financial crisis levels by 2018. The
average spend per day is expected to remain steady at $112 but the average length of stay for overseas
visitors is forecast to decline by 15% to 16.9 days. This is due to a shift in the market in favour of short-haul
trips from Asia and Australia.
Activities undertaken by international visitors
Trends in the activities undertaken by international visitors during their visit (Figure 5 & 6) are captured
in the International Visitor Survey (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013a). The key
shopping and dining. In 2012 more than 1.7 million international visitors walked or trekked
during their stay in New Zealand. Participation in this activity by overseas visitors has increased
strongly since 2008 but fell in 2012 with the decrease in visitors.
other scenic / natural attractions and lookouts and viewing platforms have also increased.
but are currently 25.9% below their 2005 peak.
visited cultural and heritage attractions has declined.
has also begun to decline.
Figure 5: Annual number of international visitors undertaking selected active outdoor recreation
activities (Source: International Visitor Survey)
Walking And Trekking
Lookouts And Viewing
Demand for park and nature based activities by overseas market
Tourism New Zealand’s Visitor Experience Monitor (Tourism New Zealand 2012b-h) tracks participation
and interest in a wide range of park and non park based activities. Analysis of four activities – tramping /
hiking, visits to National Parks, scenic bush walks and scenic drives (Figures 7-10) shows that there are
significant implications for DOC in the changing nature of New Zealand’s overseas tourism markets.
The declining UK and USA markets are ones that have high levels of participation in these four activities.
markets that have lower levels of participation. Over time this will lead to a visitor mix with lower
participation levels than is the case currently. Combined with the trend towards shorter stays in New
Zealand, this could lead to static or decreasing number of international visitors using public conservation
While there are lower levels of participation among Australian and Chinese visitors it does not appear
demand i.e, interest that is not flowing through into actual participation. There is an opportunity to grow
the number of Australian and Chinese visitors using public conservation land if their needs and barriers
to participation are understood and if the right opportunities are provided in the right places.
Interested & participated
Interested but did not participate
Were not interested
Figure 8: Demand for visits to national parks by overseas market (Source: Visitor Experience
Figure 10: Demand for scenic drives by overseas market (Source: Visitor Experience Monitor 2011/12)
only 4 days for Chinese visitors and 7 days for Australians. This compares with 20 days for British visitors
and 10 days for those from the USA (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013d). Investment
in opportunities that are easily accessible from Auckland and that offer short, instant immersion
experiences in the natural environment are likely to be more successful than some of the traditional
opportunities that DOC provides.
The following section summarises available information on domestic tourism trends. Information is
provided on the percentage of New Zealanders taking holidays within the country along with trends in
spending and commercial guest nights from domestic visitors. The Domestic Travel Survey is used to
show the significance of various outdoor activities to domestic tourism.
The data suggests that commercial guest nights are increasing after a number of years of decline.
holidays within New Zealand. The Domestic Travel Survey shows that walking or trekking, land based
sightseeing and other scenic / natural attractions were each included in more than 4.7 million trips in 2011
(Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013b). Each of these information sources is discussed
in more detail below.
Commercial guest nights
The Commercial Accommodation Monitor (Figure 11) shows that the total number of domestic guest
nights across New Zealand increased slightly from 18,823,409 in 2008 to 19,251,820 in 2012. This was
an increase of 2.3% (Statistics New Zealand 2013).
According to the Regional Tourism Indicators (RTI), spending by domestic tourists is increasing
after reaching a low point in June 2009 (Figure 12). Spending in the year to January 2013 was 10%
above 2008 levels (MBIE 2013e).
Number of trips
The Domestic Travel Survey (DTS) records the number and characteristics of trips undertaken by
New Zealanders. Unlike the International Visitor Survey discussed earlier, long term trend data is not
available as the DTS was revised in September 2009 and new data is not comparable with older data.
Recent data (Table 3) shows an increase in tourism between 2010 and 2011 (Ministry of Business,
Innovation & Employment 2013b).
Information on New Zealanders’ domestic tourism behaviour is also available from ongoing surveys
carried out by Roy Morgan Research (Figure 13). This information shows that the percentage of New
Zealanders taking holidays within New Zealand has been declining since 2006 (Roy Morgan Research
Activities undertaken by domestic visitors
Information on activities undertaken by New Zealanders’ on trips within New Zealand is available from
the Domestic Travel Survey (Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2013a). Walking and
trekking was the most popular activity under taken by New Zealanders. This is supported by other
information sources such as the Active New Zealand and Roy Morgan Surveys which are discussed later
in this report. New Zealanders made more than 4.7 million domestic trips involving walking and trekking
in 2012. Swimming, fishing and sightseeing were also popular activities (Tables 4 & 5).
attractions 4,383,647 4,511,105
Lookouts and viewing
This section of the report discusses tourism activity at the local and regional level. Data from the
Commercial Accommodation Monitor shows that New Zealanders are responsible for the majority of
tourism activity in Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki. Within the region, domestic tourism is focussed on
Taupō and Taranaki while the smaller international market is centred around the Taupō and Ruapehu
areas. International and domestic tourism have both declined in the Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki
region since 2008, but there are different trends operating in different sub-regions. International tourism
has actually increased in Taupō and Taranaki, against the regional and national trend, although spending
by international visitors has declined across the region.
Commercial guest nights
The Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki region is predominantly a domestic holiday destination. In 2012
domestic visitors accounted for 73% of guest nights in the region while 27% were from international
visitors (Statistics New Zealand 2013). The Taupō Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) area received
the largest share of domestic guest nights with 42% while one third of domestic guest nights were in
Taranaki. The Whanganui RTO area received less than 10% of the region’s domestic guest nights (Figure
Figure 14: Share of domestic guest nights by RTO (Source: Commercial Accommodation Monitor 2012)
Whanganui Taranaki region in 2012 while a quarter were received by the Ruapehu RTO area. Taranaki is
a much less significant area for international tourism compared to domestic and received only 14% of the
region’s international guest nights. The Whanganui RTO area received only 6% (Figure 15).
together received 2,054,151 guest nights in 2012. This represented approximately 6% of New Zealand’s
total guest nights (Statistics New Zealand 2013). Information on the percentage of overseas tourists
visiting the region shows a slightly higher level of activity. According to the Visitor Experience Monitor
(Tourism New Zealand 2012a), 9% of international tourists visited the Taranaki area in 2011/12 while 14%
visited the combined Manawatu – Whanganui area. The percentage who visited the Taupō and Ruapehu
areas was not clear as these were combined into other regions.
Total commercial guest nights in the region were down 3.3% on 2008 (Figure 16 & 17) and on the
market (domestic or international) and at the individual RTO level shows a more complex picture
(Statistics New Zealand 2013). Overall the region has been relatively insulated from the decrease in
international tourism experienced nationally but, in contrast to the national trend, domestic tourism
has declined. The key changes were;
Domestic guest nights have decreased by 4.3% in the Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki region
despite a small increase nationally. This was largely driven by a 9.3% decrease in the Taupō
increased domestic guest nights.
Further information at the individual RTO level is provided in Figures 18 – 21.
Official tourism statistics no longer include information on the number of overseas tourists visiting
particular areas of New Zealand. Instead the Regional Tourism Indicator collects information on the
number and value of electronic transactions. These are analysed by country to indicate size of the
international market in each region (Table 6 & &). The Regional Tourism Indicator data shows that;
Australia is the largest international market in all four RTO areas. Spending by Australian
Tourism in the Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki region is vulnerable to the decline in numbers
from the UK and USA being experienced nationally.
Spending by UK visitors decreased in all four RTO areas by between 22% and 41%.
Spending by American visitors has dropped sharply in Taupō (-30%) and Whanganui (-
Spending by Chinese visitors has increased substantially in two RTO regions but the overall
level of activity from this market is still very small. Other markets including Canada and a
number of European countries are currently larger markets for the Tongariro Whanganui
Overall spending by international tourists since 2008 is down 16% in Taupō, down 15% in
Whanganui and down 6% in the Ruapehu.. Spending increased by 6% in Taranaki.
Taranaki 45.8% 0.4% 14.4%
0.7% 5.0% 0.2% 112,254
42.9% 1.0% 15.0%
1.0% 7.9% 0.3% 32,282
Ruapehu +4% No
-37% +1% -33% -4%
Whanganui Taranaki Conservancy
The Department of Conservation manages a number of significant visitor sites in the Tongariro
Whanganui Taranaki region. Limited visitor count data is available from the Department’s booking
system and network of visitor counters. However there is little long term data available. This data is
discussed by area below.
The Department manages a large number of popular sites in the Taupō area including Huka Falls, walks
along the Waikato and Tongariro Rivers, the Tokaanu Thermal Walk and the Tongariro National Trout
Centre. It also manages the Taupō fishery which is a significant driver of tourism in the area.
Long term monitoring data is only available for the Taupō Fishery and two of the region’s tracks - the
Lake Rotopounamu and Round the Mountain Tracks. Counting has recently been established at a
number of other locations however. Because of the limited amount of data it is not possible to assess the
long term trends in use of public conservation land in the area or to compare this with official tourism
statistics. The available data is summarised below.
The track between Spa Road and Huka Falls is the busiest monitored site in the Taupō area. It
received more than 25,000 visitors in 2012. This was down 10.5% on the previous year.
Three other tracks in the vicinity of Taupō are monitored.
The Kawakawa Bay Track was enjoyed by 6896 visitors in 2012 (up 24.6%). More than
managed by Bike Taupō and more than 80% of visitors to the track are bikers.
and 2011/12 seasons continuing a general downward trend in licence sales over the past 24 years,
since sales peaked at over 82,000 in the 1987/88 season.
Numbers on the Lake Rotopounamu Track, near Turangi, peaked in 2010 but overall increased
13.4% between 2008 and 2012. The annual number of visitors rose from 9067 to 10279 (Figure 22).
More than 20,000 hits were recorded on the Tongariro River Walkway track counter. There was
an increase of 0.9% between 2011 and 2012.
Counters are also installed on two tracks in the Kaimanawa Forest Park.
Use of the Round the Mountain tramping track has declined by 21% since 2008 (Figure 23).
DOC manages a number of sites accessed from road ends on Mt Taranaki. Popular sites include Stratford
Plateau, North and East Egmont, Dawson Falls and Lucys Gully. DOC also manages a number of lower
profile sites in the wider Taranaki Area. Long term trend data for sites in Taranaki does not show an
overall trend across the area. The data is as follows:
visitors in 2012 which was up from 69,260 in 2011 (+4.7%). In contrast the number of visitors on the
North Egmont Nature Walk dropped 12.2% between 2008 and 2011 from 7784 to 6838 (Figure 24).
Other tracks at the North Egmont Road End are not monitored.
from the previous year.
37,993 visitors used the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. This was up 3.6% on the number of
by 24.6% over this period from 3722 down to 2805 visitors.
Use of the Manganui Gorge Track on the eastern side Mt Taranaki has trended downward in
2006/07 levels. The wheelchair accessible Potaema Track is also monitored but caters for fewer
than 1000 visitors annually (Figure 26).
Four other visitor counters are located around Mt Taranaki. Two tramping tracks on the western
side of Mt Taranaki (the Ihaia and Oanui Tracks) both receive fewer than 600 visitors per year.
Use of the Pouakai Circuit, in the north, is unclear as visitor flows are more complex. Activity on
one section - the Ahukawakawa Track increased 24% between 2009 and 2012. A smaller increase
of 6.1% was recorded on the Henry Peak – Kaiauai Track between 2008 and 2011 (Figure 27).
Visitor activity at the Ratapihipihi Scenic Reserve Track (Figure 28) has declined
sharply. There were 4404 hits on the visitor counter in 2012 compared to 6612 in 2009 (-
A single year of activity data is available for the Whitecliffs Walkway for 2011/12. 1403
numbers declined from 1490 in 2010 to 1203 in 2011. A drop of 19.3%.
North Egmont Nature Walk
North Egmont Visitor Centre
Figure 25: Annual visitor numbers: Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, Kapuni and Ridge Loop Tracks
Dawson Falls Visitor Centre
Kapuni Loop Track
Ridge Loop Track
Manganui Gorge Track
Figure 27: Annual counter activity: Pouakai Circuit
Henry Peak - Kaiauau Track
Popular DOC sites in the Ruapehu area include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro Northern
Circuit, the Whakapapa Visitor Centre, local walks around Whakapapa Village and the Ohakune Old
Coach Road. Visitor numbers at three sites around the Central Plateau (Taranaki Falls, Tongariro Alpine
Crossing and Tongariro Northern Circuit) peaked in 2010 but have shown an upward trend over the last
5-6 years. This contrasts with a relatively static tourism trend for the Ruapehu area overall. Numbers at the
Whakapapa Visitor Centre followed the downward trend in international tourism in the region. Trends
for specific sites are as follows:
The number of visitors using the Whakapapa Visitor Centre declined 17.5% between 2002 and
2010 (Figure 29).
Use of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing peaked in 2010 (Figure 30). Usage is estimated at 70-
80,000 visitors per year but the track counters only approximate the scale of use. This is because
some visitors do short return trips from either end of the track and cross the appropriate counter
twice. Prior to the recent eruption most visitors carried on to the Ketatahi Road End and crossed
both counters only once.
the 2006/07 season to 5649 in 2011/12. This increase was driven by a 46.2% increase in domestic
visitors. International use declined by 3.9% over this period. Use of the track has dropped slightly
from its peak of 5882 visitors in the 2010/11 season.
The number of visitors using the Taranaki Falls Track, near Whakapapa Village, peaked at 46,630
year of data is also available for the Tama Lakes Track. It received 7489 visitors in 2012.
There are only a handful of popular DOC managed sites in the Whanganui area and the available data for
these sites is very limited. While tourism has declined significantly in Whanganui, use of two high profile
33). These sites are accessed from Ohakune and domestic tourism has actually grown in this part of the
region. Trends for specific sites are as follows:
The number of visitors on the Whanganui River Journey (a canoe trip within the Department’s
Great Walk brand) increased 25% between 2006/07 and 2011/12. It now receives approximately
5500 visitors. Over this period the number of New Zealanders doing the trip increased by 43.5%
while international visitors decreased 1.7%.
Use of the Bridge to Nowhere Walk increased only slightly (1%) between the 2009/10 and 2011/12
seasons. It received 14,190 visits in 2011/12.
Activity at Gordon Park Scenic Reserve, near Whanganui dropped 8.3% between the 2009/10 and
2010/11 seasons. 5438 hits on the counter were recorded in 2010/11.
A newly established visitor counter on the Mangapurua Track recorded 1983 hits on the counter
in 2012 but complex visitor flows make it difficult to convert this into an estimated visitor count.
Three other locations in the Whanganui area (Atene Viewpoint Walk, Te Maire Loop Track and
an additional site at Mangapurua) have track counters but they each receive fewer than 1000
visitors per year.
Figure 33: Annual visitor numbers: Bridge to Nowhere & Whanganui River Journey
Bridge to Nowhere Walk
Whanganui River Journey
This section examines trends in New Zealanders’ participation in various outdoor recreation activities.
Available information shows that walking is the most popular activity for New Zealanders both on and off
public conservation land. However there is no information on whether its popularity is increasing or
decreasing. In contrast, interest in tramping and hunting appears to be on the rise while participation in
freshwater fishing is static or declining. There is no long term data that supports the popular perception
that mountain biking is increasing in popularity. Information at regional levels is relatively limited and in
some cases contradictory. However residents of Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki are more likely to visit
public conservation land than New Zealanders as a whole. The available data on participation in outdoor
recreation is summarised below.
There are two main sources of trend information for outdoor recreation activities at national level; the
Active New Zealand Survey (Sport NZ 2013) and the Roy Morgan Single Source Database (Roy Morgan
Research 2012). The Roy Morgan Single Source Database (referred to as the Roy Morgan Survey) is likely
to be the more reliable of the two data sources due to its scale (approximately 12,000 surveys per year),
consistency of method, frequency and the fact that it is more up to date (it covers the period from 2002-
2011). On the other hand it may under estimate participation levels as the available data only tracks the
number of people who define themselves as “regular” participants.
The Active New Zealand Survey was conducted by Sport and Recreation New Zealand (now Sport NZ). It
Active New Zealand counts a respondent as a participant if they engaged in an activity at least once in a
12 month period. This results in higher participation levels in the Active New Zealand Survey compared
to the Roy Morgan. Higher participation levels may also occur because the methodology of using face to
face interviews in people’s homes is more conducive to gathering detailed information on participation
than the self completion surveys used by Roy Morgan.
Data from previous Active New Zealand surveys was summarised in an earlier internal DOC report
themselves publish). The specific issues identified were that definitions of different activities have not
been consistent across the four iterations of the survey. Also the surveys have not used consistent age
categories. The 1997, 1999 and 2001 surveys captured respondents aged 18 years and over, while the most
recent interviewed those aged 16 years and over.
Two other surveys also provide useful data. The Domestic Travel Survey provides information about
is only available for two full years (2010 and 2011) and activities undertaken within 40 km of a
respondent’s home (i.e. local recreation) are generally excluded. This data has already been summarised
in an earlier section of this report.
of various recreation activities on public conservation land. It asks respondents to indicate the main
activity undertaken on their most recent visit to a DOC managed area. There a number of other surveys
providing information relevant to specific activities such as camping, hunting and fishing. These reports
are introduced alongside the discussion of individual activities below.
The strengths and weaknesses of both surveys should be considered when using the information
Research 2012), the Domestic Travel Survey and a number of surveys that are relevant to single activities.