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Tourist numbers perk up in August as Aussies more than offset declining Asian demand

Tuesday 15th October 2019

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A growing number of Australian tourists more than offset declining Asian and European visitor numbers as the pace of growth across the sector continues to moderate. 

Short-term visitor arrivals increased 1.8 percent to 251,100 in August from the same month a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand figures show.

Short-term visitor arrivals were up 2.5 percent at 3.8 million in the 12 months ended August, due largely to a 3 percent, or 44,400, increase in Australian visitors to 1.52 million. That more than offset the 3.9 percent decline in Asian tourists to 997,600 because of a 7.4 percent slide in Chinese visitor numbers to 417,900. Annual European visitors dipped 0.2 percent to 560,300. 

"A global slowdown is affecting the nationalities arriving in New Zealand. The effects are most obvious when contrasting European tourist arrivals to Australian arrivals, as short-haul flights are preferred for a more affordable holiday," Infometrics economist Andrew Beattie said in a note. 

The canning of AirAsia's Kula Lumpur-Auckland route has seen an 8.9 percent annual drop in visitors from Malaysia to 49,000, but Air New Zealand's new route to Taipei has seen a 22.7 percent lift in Taiwanese visitors at 51,300. The number of American visitors rose 8.8 percent to 368,900, reflecting additional US routes. 

The data followed yesterday's accommodation survey showing international guest nights for August snapped a nine-month contraction. 

Chris Roberts, chief executive at Tourism Industry Aotearoa, said yesterday's commercial accommodation figures and other data indicated that the tourism sector is still experiencing good growth, and a weaker currency helped increase visitor spending. 

“The monthly tourism spend estimates, calculated by Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment from electronic card data, suggest that international visitor spend so far in 2019 is up 6 percent on last year, with domestic spend up almost 3 percent," Roberts said. 

However, Bank of New Zealand economist Doug Steel yesterday noted that the component of BNZ's performance of services index most closely linked to the tourism sector had been weak over the past three months. 

Separately, Stats NZ's provisional migration data showed net migration remained strong in August, with a net monthly inflow of 3,611 compared to a net inflow of 4,756 a year earlier. That took the provisional annual net migration inflow to 53,810, up from 49,197 a year earlier. 

The provisional 12-month figure may be adjusted higher or lower by about 1,800, the agency said.

The net migration estimate for the month of July was revised to a net inflow 5,555 from 6,100.


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