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Kiwi weakness against Aussie dollar helping visitor numbers

Friday 4th February 2011

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The weakness of the New Zealand dollar against its Australian counterpart is helping to keep up the number of visitors from across the Tasman, but the aussies are proving to be cautious spenders.

Data from Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) today showed overseas visitor arrivals at a record 345,700 in December, the highest recorded for any month and up 1% from the previous high in December 2009.

Visitor numbers from Australia in December were 4500 up from a year earlier, while arrivals from China were up 2500, but that was largely a recovery from a fall in December 2009.

ANZ economist Mark Smith said visitor arrivals from Australia had surged 3.5% seasonally adjusted in December, as the low kiwi versus the aussie proved beneficial for trans-Tasman tourism.

Visitor arrivals from Britain rose 5.1%, despite the high NZ dollar against the pound, but remained considerably below year earlier levels. Arrivals from other destinations fell, with the high NZ dollar and global wobbles likely to have been influential, Mr Smith said.

"However, the Rugby World Cup is fast approaching. This is the third-largest sporting event in the world, and is expected to attract 85,000 visitors to New Zealand. It is likely to provide a much-needed boost to tourism earnings for a sector that has borne the brunt of the high NZD and economic woes."

ASB economist Jane Turner said that over the past year, the number of Australian visitors had remained fairly steady, after surging in 2009.

But Australian households had been relatively careful with discretionary spending, with an increased focus on saving.

"As a result, the high number of Australian visitors has not flowed through to growth in tourist spending," she said. Despite the increase in overall short-term arrivals, the estimated average number of visitors per day fell from 192,500 in December 2009 to 188,300 in December 2010, SNZ said.

That was because more visitors stayed one week or less and fewer stayed two weeks or more.

The 2.53 million visitor arrivals for the whole of 2010 were 3% higher than in 2009 and 41% up from a decade earlier when the number was 1.79 million.



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