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Tourism numbers improve in April

Monday 23rd May 2011

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Visitor numbers may show hopeful signs for the hard-pressed tourism industry, with Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) data showing a seasonally adjusted 8% rise in short-term visitor arrivals from March to April.

That was a recovery after a 12% fall between January and March, influenced by the Christchurch earthquake on February 22, SNZ said.

The unadjusted 197,800 visitors last month was 5% higher than in April 2010.

The later timing of Easter and Australian school holidays this year contributed to the rise in April, SNZ said.

Visitor arrivals from Australia in April were 8100 higher than a year earlier, with arrivals from Britain 2900 higher. But when March and April figures were combined to account for the shift in timing of the holidays, visitor numbers from the two countries were lower than a year earlier.

Visitor numbers from Japan were down 2800 in April, those from Korea were 2500 lower, and from Thailand the decrease was 1600.

Sharp falls in visitors from Japan and Korea started after the February quake in Christchurch, and may have been further affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, SNZ said.

Both Japan and Korea suffered fatalities in the quake.

Malaysian visitor numbers doubled to 3400 last month from April 2010, following the launch of flights between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch, along with more flights between Singapore and Auckland.

ANZ economist Mark Smith said the Canterbury earthquakes appeared to have been quite a sizeable deterrent to Asian visitor numbers.

Reassuringly, visitor numbers were rebounding form Australia, Britain and Germany, but were still down on levels from three months earlier, Mr Smith said.

"Given seismic events and the high NZ dollar we do not envisage significantly better times for the tourism sector until the Rugby World Cup. A difficult few months for tourism lie ahead."

ASB economist Jane Turner said the bounce back in visitor arrivals was encouraging, suggesting the Christchurch quake may not have a long lasting impact on tourism.



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