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by Greta Yeoman

The economic benefits of the coming tourist season in the Mackenzie District look set to grow, as the district prepares for a bumper summer.

International visitor spending in the Mackenzie District passed $200million in the year ending September 2018.

This compared to a little more than $170million in the previous 12 months, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment data showed.

Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said the council was looking forward to a busy tourist season, backed up by new infrastructure to deal with the rising visitor numbers.

“[The] Mackenzie is recognised as a tourist hot spot.”

Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith

ChristchurchNZ destination and attraction general manager Loren Heaphy said the Canterbury-wide tourism organisation was positive about the coming season.

“It looks to be another fantastic summer for tourism.”

However, the negative effects of tourism on the region were also being recognised.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, speaking at the New Zealand Grassland Association conference in Twizel last week, said tourism’s environmental impacts required just as much scrutiny as the agricultural sector.

Mr Upton said the country had been visited by 3.5million people last year and the Government expected this number to grow to million by 2021, the Otago Daily Times reported.

This was “huge growth” since 1990, when just 1million people had visited the country per year.

Mr Upton said the Government was looking at the environmental impacts of tourism’s growth and would be meeting Mackenzie representatives to discuss issues around that.

Hospitality New Zealand South Canterbury branch representative Kristy Phillips said while the industry wanted people to enjoy the attractions of New Zealand, it also wanted to maintain them.

Hospitality New Zealand South Canterbury branch representative Kristy Phillips

“[We need to maintain] those attractions . . . so that future visitors can continue to have a positive experience here.”

She said there was a “real positivity” among hospitality businesses as the summer season approached.

“We are gearing up to welcome plenty of visitors this summer.”

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, whose electorate covers most of the Mackenzie, was positive about the financial benefits for small businesses, which were “vital” to the success of the region.

“Another busy summer season will be welcomed.”