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Hanmer Springs "Slow Travel" Offers Hope For Local Economies And Climate

Slow travel" or holidays close to home, are the key to stronger local economies and a lower carbon footprint for the tourism sector say two groundbreaking reports to be released by the Hikurangi Foundation on Wednesday 5 August at the national Ecotourism NZ Conference in Nelson:

The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Tourism - the first comprehensive assessment of the emissions of the gasses responsible for dangerous climate change from the domestic tourism sector, highlights the challenge of 1,918,937 tonnes of "carbon" (co2e) produced per year (that's more than 3 times the amount from international tourists travelling in New Zealand and more than the commercial sector or the residential sector);

The Kapiti Coast Day Out - a low carbon tourism pilot - showcases a solution: an innovative experiment by the local tourism community which provided transport services connecting to the Wellington train and discovered new demand for days out with a lower carbon footprint.

The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Tourism shows that when compared with international visitors domestic tourism is responsible for more economic activity ($26 million in economic activity every day versus $24), more overnight trips (83% of all overnight trips are by domestic tourists) and more "carbon". Trips by Kiwis are responsible for three quarters of the "carbon footprint" of tourism here (compared with only 25% for international tourists' travel within New Zealand). Transport determines the bulk of the footprint (96%); much more so than the choices about accommodation. Within transport car trips (59%) and air travel (36%) play the biggest role.

Written by Doctor Susanne Becken from Lincoln University, a world expert on climate change and tourism, the study points out that there is a clear potential to shrink this footprint, help New Zealand comply with international obligations, and secure our "100% Pure" brand. With the majority of domestic tourist flows around the main population centres, we need sustainable transport networks that cater for shorter trips. Key tourist destinations such as Coromandel, Rotorua, Taupo, the Kapiti Coast, Hanmer Springs, and Akaroa could form part of alternative and carbon-efficient transport networks.

Following on from the study and catalysed by the Hikurangi Foundation, the Kapiti Coast Day Out - a low carbon tourism pilot - tells the story of the Kapiti Coast: a region an hour from Wellington and already looking at attracting more "backyard" visitors to the area. It has commuter train access which is usually a lower carbon means of transport than the car. But there is a gap 20-30% of all visitors who catch the train from Wellington to Kapiti often feel let down when they arrive in Paraparaumu station because it's hard to get around the various tourist attractions due to a lack of convenient connecting transport.

The innovative pilot built "a better Kapiti for a day" and created connecting transport (including shuttles and bikes) and invited a sample of Wellingtonians to use it. This fun promotion called the Kapiti Day Out did not strongly emphasise the low carbon element. The results from an OPUS Consultants survey of participants (who were normally car drivers) included: ? Seven out of ten of them were not against trains in general or trains to Kapiti; they just didn't think the infrastructure was there to get around Kapiti without a car. They agreed better connecting services and cheaper ticketing were needed ? People were positive about their day out. The pilot day shuttles got a big thumbs up, and with a bit of refinement on timetables, 90% might use them in the future. ? Over six out of ten liked the idea of bikes too. ? As a result of trying out the lower carbon transport options, pilot day visitors were twice as likely as those who didn't experience it for themselves to say their next visit would be by train (or bus) i.e. over a third are already prepared to get on the train to Kapiti again. ? Interviews with participants and photos of the day out are available

Overall, using assumptions which were most likely to have over estimated the Kapiti Day Out carbon footprint, the pilot using train and shuttles appears to have saved at least 844 kg CO2e compared with the usual trip by car; that is, a greater than 60 per cent saving. In practice, a more permanent arrangement which is now being developed by the local community should be able to make more savings as well as boost the long term return from tourism for the area.

Nature Coast Regional Tourism Manager Chris Barber said: "Often we lose sight of what our visitors are actually thinking. Participating in an initiative such as this not only gave us the opportunity to test the market when it comes to the use of sustainable transport options, but it also gave us an opportunity to chat to our visitors and ask them about what works and what doesn't. An extra benefit from the day was a great opportunity for the community to come together and work on a fantastic project that is close to the hearts of all Kapiti Coasters."

Liana Stupples, Executive Director of the Hikurangi Foundation said: "Like most of us, the Kiwis who enjoyed the pilot day out were looking for a reasonably priced, hassle-free fun day. The fact that low-carbon joined-up transport could deliver that is great news for the local tourism economy in Kapiti and also for New Zealand Tourism's long term reputation. Smart action on climate change made sense all round.

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