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Australians help NZ tourism hit annual record in June

Wednesday 21st July 2010

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New Zealand’s tourist numbers reached 2.5 million for the first time in a 12-month period in June as Australians kept coming across the ditch for a cheap holiday, though economists warn the golden weather may have passed.

Visitor arrivals climbed 8% to 145,800 in June from the same month a year ago, according to Statistics New Zealand. The data showed an annual 2.501 million people visited New Zealand, topping the previous record of 2.497 million in the 12 months through March 2008. Some 45% of the visitors came from Australia.  

“We’re starting to see a slowdown in Australian arrivals and the recovery in Asia is starting to peter out,” said Jane Turner, economist at ASB Bank. “The market’s starting to soften” and this could be the peak, she said.

The number of Australian tourists climbed 7% to 76,200 last month from June 2009, while British visitors fell 12% and American tourists dropped 8%. Asian tourism bounced back, with combined numbers from China, Japan and Korea surging 86% to 6,900 in June from the same month a year ago as fears about a swine flu pandemic eased.

Tourism has been flagged as a growth industry for New Zealand with next year’s Rugby World Cup giving rating agency Moody’s Investors Service cause to be cautiously upbeat about the nation’s economic outlook. Shares in Air New Zealand the national carrier, jumped 2.9% to $1.07 in trading today, while Auckland International Airport gained 0.5% to $1.94.

Philip Borkin, economist at Goldman Sachs JBWere, said there has been a continued moderation in Australian visitors, and ongoing weakness from the British and American markets will keep tourism spending subdued.

The data showed net migration continued to slow with 100 more people arriving in New Zealand on a permanent or long-term basis than departing. Annual net migration was at 16,500, down from 17,900 in the 12 months through May, and a peak of 22,600 in the year ended January.

Traders in the New Zealand dollar were indifferent to the news, with the currency little changed at 71.66 US cents from 71.59 cents immediately before its release.

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