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Tourism ratings get megabuck boost

By Phil Boeyen, ShareChat Business News Editor

Tuesday 15th January 2002

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The government has announced a multi-million dollar funding package to help develop a new quality assurance framework for New Zealand's tourism industry.

Tourism Minister, Mark Burton, says the government has agreed to invest an $2.5 million in Qualmark over the next two and a half years.

Qualmark is an independent classification and quality rating system for accommodation and tourism retail businesses and is funded by its two owners - the government, through Tourism New Zealand, and the NZ Automobile Association - and by revenue from licence holders.

The government cash injection will be used to significantly expand the current grading system to include adventure tourism, transport activities and retail, eco-tourism and attractions and to provide a business certification process to encourage best business practice adoption in the tourism sector.

"Qualmark provides visitors with a reliable standardised quality assurance system. This is essential to our positioning of New Zealand as a quality destination," Mr Burton says.

Qualmark boss, Fiona Luhrs, says plans will be implemented quickly on various fronts and she expects a number of milestones will be reached from mid 2002.

These include upscaling trials with some horse trekking and sea kayaking businesses and rolling out a classification and grading system for charter boats..

Qualmark will also extend its classification and grading systems in the accommodation sector to cater for bed & breakfasts, home and farm stays, guest houses, inns, country hotels and mid range lodges.

Sky City (NZSE: SKC) MD and New Zealand Tourism Strategy Group chairman, Evan Davies, says the new initiatives are a strong response to advancing elements of the Tourism Strategy 2010, released in May last year.

That document recommended a 10-year plan based on securing and conserving a long-term future for one of New Zealand's largest earners of foreign exchange.

"Tourism now accounts for 9.3% of gross domestic product and contributes 10% of New Zealand's export earnings. Managed correctly, sustainable tourism has the potential to grow international and domestic tourism expenditure from between $16 billion and $27 billion over the 10-year period," says Mr Davies.

Mr Davies says the government's commitment to service quality through its support of Qualmark, and to Maori tourism, regional tourism organisations and local government by providing additional funding, were important first steps to ensuring the strategic vision for tourism was met.

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