This summer presents a great opportunity for New Zealanders to get out into nature with bookings on Great Walks for 2020/21 set to open next week, says Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.
Bookings for the Great Walks will open between June 9 and 11, excluding Milford and Routeburn tracks which are still undergoing storm repairs. Bookings for these tracks are projected to open in July/August 2020.
“For people who haven’t done a Great Walk previously, the 2020/21 season presents a fantastic opportunity to get out and experience nature in some of New Zealand’s most spectacular landscapes with iconic wildlife and rich history,” says Eugenie Sage.
“With a high standard of tracks and facilities, they are accessible options for people wishing to connect with Aotearoa’s heritage and experience some of the best multi-day walks in the world.
“New Zealand is highly regarded as a walking destination. As the Great Walks gain global recognition, it has become harder to secure a booking on to the most popular tracks at peak times.”
Over the last two summer Great Walks seasons - October to the end of April - the Department of Conservation – DOC - trialled ‘differential pricing’, a higher price for international visitors, on four of the most popular Great Walks - Milford, Routeburn, Kepler and Abel Tasman Coast tracks.
DOC sought through this trial to obtain valuable information on the effectiveness of pricing as a tool to manage visitor pressure. It also informed DOC’s work to set and maintain a fair pricing system.
“The trial has demonstrated the merits of differential pricing to improve access for New Zealand residents, more fairly distribute the running costs and ensure the fees reflect the true value of these world-class walks,” says Sage.
“But due to the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism industry and international travel, differential pricing won’t be in place this year. However, it’s now a tried and tested tool DOC can draw upon when setting accommodation prices for future years.”
DOC is advising those overseas not to book onto a Great Walk while New Zealand border restrictions remain in place.
DOC will retain a fee for international children on the Great Walks set at half the adult rate. This is to discourage overseas organisations from making speculative bulk bookings of Great Walks accommodation, which hold space that may not be used.
“For anyone wanting to get out over winter, the Rakiura, Abel Tasman, Heaphy, Paparoa, Lake Waikaremoana and Abel Tasman Coast tracks offer a range of year-round walking and biking opportunities, but you must be well prepared,” says Sage.
“Let someone know before you go, check the weather and track conditions and make sure you take the necessary food, water, clothing and equipment.”
The evaluation of the trial 2019/20 concluded that two of the three trial objectives were achieved:
1. Access for New Zealand residents - more New Zealanders -18 per cent - experienced the Great Walks in 2019/20 than at the same time in 2017/18.
2. Increased international contribution to costs - the proportion of revenue from international visitors contributing towards costs increased from 30 per cent to 38 per cent in 2019/20 than at the same time for 2017/18.
The third objective that the fee equated to the value of the experience, has not been achieved. There were two main indications it was not achieved:
1. The proportion of international visitors on the trialled walks who stated those walks were value for money decreased from 73 per cent in 2018 to at least 63 per cent under the trial
2. Most of the international visitors considered the differential pricing fees were too high.
Therefore, the analysis of the results from the trial over the summer Great Walks seasons for 2018/19 and 2019/20 has found that it can be used (both on the Great Walks and other DOC facilities) to achieve all three of the above objectives with some changes to how the prices are set:
The differential rate will be reduced
The feedback from international visitors in the both years of the trail was that they considered the 2x differential too great and that it was not value for money. The Department did further research and analysis into potential rates. This work involved both quantitative analysis and willingness pay surveys.
The quantitative analysis for refining the differential was based on a full cost and a relative contributions approach. The difference between New Zealanders and international visitors’ contributions over and above the hut fee, such as through taxation determined the differential.
The results indicated that a more equitable differential was in the order of 1.5x. This differential was supported by the results of the willingness to pay survey.
A new international youth rate
International visitors indicated that it was unfair that children should pay the full international adult rate. The Department agreed with this feedback and an international youth rate of half the international adult rate is to be applied to the Great Walks.
All other bookable DOC facilities (beside those on the 10 Great Walks) will open on June 25 for
2020/21 bookings. These facilities have now moved to DOC’s new booking system requiring users to create user accounts prior to making bookings. People can create their user accounts June 23 2020.
The new booking system enables people to manage their bookings and allow them to receive timely health and safety information.
For public health and safety, huts will be operating at a reduced capacity at Alert Level 2 and people are advised to carry and use cleaning and hygiene products while using DOC facilities.
Details of when bookings open for each Great Walk can be found on DOC’s website: