The boss of Silver Fern Holidays has urged agents to “talk up” the benefits of working with a New Zealand specialist as the country rolls out its new “eco-levy” and e-visa arrangements.
New Zealand’s £18 International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) came into force on 1 July and will be followed by a £4.50 (via an app) or £6 (online) Esta-style e-visa on 1 October.
Concerns have been raised in recent months over the emergence of unofficial IVL and e-visa services, designed to catch out unwary travellers.
Silver Fern chief executive John Lightwood told TTG while some independent travellers would inevitably be caught out, it was an opportunity for agents to demonstrate their value.
“We’ve been in touch with all agents who sell us,” said Lightwood. “I recently ‘walked through’ the application process with an agent, and it’s built into our face-to-face training this autumn.”
Lightwood added Tourism New Zealand had kept specialists like Silver Fern abreast of developments, adding it was important now to reiterate that despite the split implementation dates, the IVL and e-visa can be obtained simultaneously.
An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson told TTG it had been engaging with the travel and tourism sector since June 2018 and has embarked on a “wide-reaching” global marketing campaign to raise awareness of the new measures.
“INZ also has a monthly newsletter to provide updates on the NZeTA [e-visa] travel agents can subscribe too,” they added.
Lightwood said while the principle of the new eco-levy was good, he was disappointed it wasn’t being extended to Australian visitors. “They visit more often and for short trips, which by definition have a greater impact on New Zealand’s environment.”
He added the levy would have minimal – if any – impact on the operator’s sales and/or British travellers’ desire to visit New Zealand. “Explaining the fees may take a few extra minutes, but it’s no big deal within the overall planning time we spend with every client or agent,” said Lightwood.
“The e-visa and eco-levy won’t put people off booking; New Zealand is a bucket-list trip clients enjoy planning for up to two years ahead. And in cost terms, given most of our clients spend upwards of three weeks in the country, the fees are negligible.