The current state of tourism

Industry snapshot


27% of employees that work in tourism are under the age of 25, which is a much higher proportion of young workers than the average across all industries, at 13%. Nearly half the industry (48%) is under the age of 34. [1]


54% of employees in the tourism industry are female. [1]

Māori workforce

16% of people working the industry identify as Māori. [2]

This is similar to the percentage of Māori in the entire New Zealand workforce at 14%. [3]

Employees in tourism 

204,812 direct employees on average per annum over 2014  to 2019. Tourism indirectly employed 139,656 over that same period. [4]

Migrant workforce

16% of tourism employees were migrants in the first quarter of 2022. This is a drop of 6% from the previous 2 years, COVID-19 being a key factor.

However, tourism still has a higher percentage of migrant workers than other industries where on average, migrants make up 12% of the workforce. [5]


$6.64 was the estimated hourly income gap between tourism pay rates and the Aotearoa New Zealand median in the June 2022 quarter. This is an increase of 7% from the June 2021 quarter. The estimated tourism industry median hourly income is $23.02, compared to $29.66 for pay rates across New Zealand. [6]

The Better Work Action Plan seeks to address systematic challenges in the tourism workforce

Early in the Better Work Leadership Group’s journey we identified the systemic challenges facing the tourism workforce. These are summarised by the 4 problem statements and supporting data. 

Better Work Action Plan challenges

Demand fluctuations

Due to the seasonal nature of tourism, demand for tourism workers fluctuates through the year, weeks, days and between regions, meaning workers can lack job security and are sometimes underutilised or overworked.

Pay and conditions

Low pay and poor conditions can be a barrier to attracting and retaining people to work in tourism. Sometimes pay and conditions are not compliant with minimum legal standards.

Firm maturity and scale

Due to the industry being composed of mostly small and medium sized enterprises, some tourism businesses lack the scale, systems, and capacity to effectively manage human resources and have low levels of investment in workers’ training and development.

Current and future skills gap

Tourism struggles to attract and retain people with the skills the industry needs, particularly from the domestic workforce, and does not sufficiently invest in training for both current and future needs.

Workforce survey 

To help ensure that the Tourism ITP has a solid understanding of the current workforce situation and to help inform the Better Work Action Plan, the Better Work Leadership Group commissioned Dr David Williamson from the Auckland University of Technology to conduct a survey of the tourism and hospitality workforce (Workforce Survey).

This survey is based on the methodology of the recent Voices from The Front Line 2021 research but encompasses the breadth of the tourism industry (as opposed to the focus of the original report on the hospitality industry).

Read more about the workforce survey 


  1. Estimate created using data sourced from Stats NZ (June 2022) 'Household Labour Force Survey'; and Stats NZ (March 2021) 'Tourism Satellite Account'. [Back to text
  2. This figure is an estimate of the proportion of Māori working in accommodation and food services as a proxy for the wider tourism industry. The estimate was created using data sourced from Stats NZ (June 2022) 'Household Labour Force Survey'; and Stats NZ (2021) 'Tourism Satellite Account'. [Back to text
  3. Estimate created using data sourced from Stats NZ (June 2022) 'Household Labour Force Survey' and Stats NZ (March 2021) 'Tourism Satellite Account'. [Back to text
  4. Data sourced from Stats NZ (March 2022) 'Tourism Satellite Account for year ended March 2022'. [Back to text
  5. Migrant Employment Data (MED), MBIE, extracted from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure. [Back to text
  6. Estimate created using data sourced from Stats NZ (June 2022) Household Labour Force Survey and Stats NZ (March 2021) 'Tourism Satellite Account'. [Back to text
Last updated: 28 June 2023