QLDC seeks researcher to investigate 'optimal' tourist numbers

by Kim Bowden - Mar 07, 2024

The search is on for a contractor able to figure out just where the sweet spot is when it comes to the number of tourists being hosted by the Queenstown Lakes District.

The local council has put out a tender for proposals from entities keen to come up with a model to determine "optimal visitation" to "enable effective scenario planning and informed decision-making within the district".

The price tag attached to the project is approximately $250,000.

The council's tender documents call this "potentially ground-breaking work" in a "high growth district with an economy that is dominated by tourism".

"With a small resident population and high visitor numbers, understanding the implications of visitation is essential for making good decisions and achieving positive outcomes to meet the needs of the community," the documents say.

"Visitation in the district needs to be analysed in conjunction with residential growth, community sentiment, worker experience, visitor experience, seasonal changes, environmental degradation/regeneration and cultural context."

The model is being developed by the QLDC in partnership with Destination Southern Lakes Inc, the new destination management organisation for Queenstown and Wānaka.

The plan is for the model to tease out the social, cultural, environmental and economic impacts of visitors in and around the two destinations, and how they all interact.

"As a concept, optimal visitation relates to the intensity level, timing and form of visitation to a destination which generates the optimal impact on that area in terms of environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing," the documents say.

"It means that the tourism carrying capacity of relevant variables are not exceeded while at the same time providing the highest possible utility for key partners, stakeholders and groups."

Prospective suppliers are told: "The final product should be of a calibre that it can potentially be shared across the motu and internationally".

"The project has the potential to become an international testbed and leader for optimal visitation modelling informing decisions to achieve regenerative tourism."

The council is expecting to hear from submitters on how they would each approach the project, saying the tender process is being run on a "reverse brief basis".

It says it does not want to hear from anyone "not excited" by the project or with a "boilerplate approach" to the tender process.

In the documents, the council says the project is "of critical strategic importance" to the district and the resulting model "is an important step in the transition to regenerative tourism".

It is expected the model will be used by the council as well as other stakeholders like the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Health, utilities companies, Regional Tourism Organisations, and iwi.

The deadline for delivery of the model is June 2025.

Main image: Lakeside Earnslaw Park in Queenstown is packed with weekend visitors, February 2024.

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