A British writer’s contention that New Zealand is one of the most unreasonably expensive places to visit has sharply polarised opinion throughout this small nation.
Every country has its share of expensive and cheap places to buy goods and services and places where tourists tend to visit for the mandatory “been there done that” photo op – that is an absolute must as a Facebook post – tend to be more expensive.
So you can’t really expect to have parity on price for a cup of Mocha on the Viaduct and, say, Onehunga Mall, though both would be equally eminently enjoyable. That sort of variance would be true of every city in the world, whether it is an important tourist destination or not.
While a great many people have supported the writer’s opinion that New Zealand is a rip off, an equal number has taken the opposite view. Among those who believe New Zealand is a rip off seem to be a sizable number of Kiwis living abroad. They contend it is expensive to live, has low wages, far fewer choices and opportunities to advance their careers and so on.
Adding these opinions to the writer’s opinion that New Zealand is a rip off is incorrect. Expensive to visit and expensive to live are two different things though interrelated and should not been seen in the same perspective. But loading on facts that make New Zealand what it is because of its geographical location and its low population on to the equation is completely fallacious.
Yes, New Zealand is expensive to live, is a low-wage earning country, has fewer choices in everything – from consumer products and shopping selections to careers and employment opportunities, has higher pricing levels for most commodities including the ones that are produced here – like cheese and meat. And this is in comparison with other nations of the OECD grouping measured on standardised scales.
Yet, this cannot be applied to conclude that New Zealand is a rip off. Prices around touristy places are always higher anywhere in the world. Hotel rooms in Mumbai or New Delhi, for instance, can be more expensive than any hotel room in New Zealand.
But just as in New Zealand, there are comfortable, cheaper choices. And if one shops around a little and negotiates, there are unbelievable deals to be had – every well travelled tourist will tell you that. It is unfair, therefore, to look at the top end of a tourist market and dub a whole country a rip off.
It is quite obvious that the world does not quite agree with this view. In that same week, Tourism New Zealand released figures saying that for the first time, visitor numbers had crossed 2.5 million. That is great news for New Zealand’s tourism sector, considering that it has happened in what has been deemed one of the worst years for the world economy.
While tourist arrivals fell everywhere, they actually rose to a record level here in New Zealand. Which means people saw value for money, travelling all the way to the bottom of the world to get away from the depressing happenings following the financial carnage in the West. That would certainly have not been the case had the world believed that the country was a rip off.
But the writer’s piece could not have been better timed in being a wake-up call and a warning for the opportunistic tendency among a few operators that has the potential to ruin the party for the rest of the country. The run up to Rugby World Cup next year has seen some people put up their prices unreasonably, even absurdly high enough for the prime minister to have commented on it.
That sort of opportunism could be ruinous not only to the country’s tourism sector but also to its reputation. If the article in question has sounded that wake-up call, it would have done the job for New Zealand – however inadvertently.