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Visitor arrivals rise in July, stoking tourism prospects

Thursday 21st August 2008

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Short-term visitors to New Zealand rose last month to a record number for July, which may help stoke the prospects of tourist operators.

There were 175,700 short-term visitors in July, up 2.1% seasonally adjusted from June, according to Statistics New Zealand. That exceeds the previous July record of 173,300 set in 2004. The annual influx rose 1% to 2.48 million.

Any pick up in tourists would be a boon for companies such as Tourism Holdings, which yesterday posted an 11% decline in earnings and predicted a tough next 18 months for the industry. The government last month trimmed its estimate for tourism between now and December 2010, citing slowing global economic growth and rising costs of travel.

July "was obviously excellent relative to other July months but, in seasonally adjusted term, hasn't managed to break out from the range that has been prevailing since late 2006," said Robin Clements, economist at UBS New Zealand. "The industry will also have to cope with higher travel costs and slower growth in GDP and incomes in most source countries."

Tourism Holdings shares rose 6.4% to NZ$1.50, trimming its slump this year to 40%. Auckland International Airport, the nation's busiest, rose 1.5% to NZ$2.01.

Tourism accounts for about 10% of New Zealand's economy.

Meantime, permanent or long-term arrivals exceeded departures by 5,201 in the 12 months ended July 31, the government statistician said.

By Jonathan Underhill

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