Why DOC is introducing the differential pricing trial for the 2018/19 Great Walks season.

Differential pricing is new to DOC and the trial will play an important role in informing DOC’s future decisions in relation to managing visitor demand, increasing access to the Great Walks for New Zealanders, ensuring quality visitor experiences and equitable cost recovery. 

DOC's Great Walks

DOC’s nine Great Walks are internationally renowned, top visitor experiences and pricing needs to reflect the exceptional value they offer all visitors. 

The Great Walks are well formed and have higher standard huts and facilities than other tracks, enabling them to sustain a high level of use while protecting the surrounding environment. This high standard also makes the walks expensive to build and maintain. 

User fees are an important contribution to ensure the Department can continue to provide these facilities on the Great Walks. 

Recovering costs

Pricing also needs to fairly distribute the cost of maintaining that experience between New Zealanders and international visitors. 

Over the last few years, DOC has had great success in attracting more and more people to the Great Walks and this has provided more revenue towards covering their running costs. However, even with increased revenue recovered through the differential pricing trail, DOC will still need to invest in managing the national parks and track assets. At present there is a shortfall of up to $3.8 million each year on costs recovered from the Great Walks. 

The estimated financial impact for this trial is an increase in revenue of around $2.9 million per annum. 


DOC has engaged an independent contractor to undertake comprehensive evaluation of the pricing trial. Walkers will have an opportunity to provide feedback as part of this evaluation.

The trial will be assessed against its three major objectives:

  • improve access to the Great Walks for people usually resident in New Zealand
  • increase the proportion of costs that are received from international users
  • charge international visitors a fee that more fairly reflects the high value of the experience.

The evaluation report is expected to be completed around the close of the Great Walks season (April 2019). It will inform a decision on the value of differential pricing for the Great Walks. DOC will be in a position to share more information regarding the outcomes of the trial once this report is complete.

Visitor management

To date visitor satisfaction remains high despite the rise in numbers on our Great Walks. A key challenge is to maintain the quality of experience at high use sites, while also ensuring that international visitor growth is compatible with New Zealanders’ enjoyment of and engagement with these places. 

Within the context of supporting outstanding natural experiences for growing visitor numbers across New Zealand, the Department is working to understand the best ways to achieve appropriate visitor pricing and revenue collection. This trial forms part of our strategy around this and provides an opportunity to study the effects of pricing as a tool. 

Because visitors often put pressure on just a few popular spots, DOC is working to encourage visitors to places with capacity for growth. The trial will also inform DOC about the use of pricing to encourage greater regional dispersal. It is intended that these price increases will encourage international visitors to use our less visited Great Walks, for which there will be no price increases. 

A differential pricing system for huts and campsites is unlikely to dissuade international visitors from booking the Great WalksThe biggest obstacle here is the time, logistics and costs involved in getting to the walks.  The hut and campsite fees make up a relatively small proportion of the overall cost. 

Great Walks visitors and usage




Map: New Zealand’s nine Great Walks


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