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Time to pivot away from tourism


If we are serious about combating global warming, then international tourism is dead in the water. Despite a lot of greenwash, long-haul jet flights continue to be big producers of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Much-vaunted small efficiency improvements made by the industry have been swamped by its rapid growth.

Airlines say there are two technologies that will allow zero-carbon flights in the future. Battery-powered flight is a long way in the future, but will never power flights beyond short hops — even if batteries become way lighter. Hydrogen fuel, when burnt in a high-temperature jet engine, produces oxides of nitrogen, the potent GHG that means existing jets are more polluting than other uses of fossil fuels. So while feasible, this technology will still pollute.

Economically we are in a triage situation. An end to international tourism will mean many people's lives will be painfully changed — but we can and should only support industries that will be viable in the future, while helping workers to exit those industries that will not.

There is no case for a special rescue package for tourism. We should do all we can to encourage New Zealanders who used to holiday overseas to enjoy their own country, but the industry needs to downsize to cater for the domestic market.

Let's accept that the changes brought on by Covid-19 should be permanent. Many of the stranded assets from the tourism industry will be accommodation buildings; we should re-purpose these to solve our housing crisis.

Dave Read, Wairoa

  1. The hairy huhu grub says:

    For way too long Tourism NZ hasn’t given a fig about domestic tourism. Overpriced activities and food, and above all run down accommodation. (Try to find a nice motel in Rotorua.)