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Tourist rebound helps sector eclipse NZ dairy exports in year to March

Wednesday 27th October 2010

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A rebound in tourism helped the sector eclipse dairy products as the biggest exporter earner in the year to March 31, according to government figures.  

Foreign visitors lifted their spending by $149 million to $9.5 billion, with an inflow of Australians taking advantage of their strong currency jumping across the Tasman for bargain holidays, Statistics New Zealand said. Dairy exports amounted to $9 billion in the same period.

“Many countries have experienced a decline in international tourism over the past 18 months, but we have bucked the trend,” Associate Tourism Minister Jonathan Coleman said in a statement. “With the Rugby World Cup next year, the sector will grow even further so things are really looking up.”

Last year, tourism took a hit after the global financial crisis sapped people’s ability to holiday on long-haul flights, though Chinese students propped up the figures, according to Ministry of Tourism data.

Total tourism spending rose 2.1% to $22.4 billion in the period and contributed $6.5 billion, or 3.8%, to gross domestic product. It generated $1.7 billion in goods and services tax revenue for the government.

The data comes as Prime Minister John Key tries to secure a last-minute deal with Warner Bros. executives to ensure The Hobbit film production takes place in New Zealand, injecting some US$500 million into the local economy.

The sector shed 1.6% of full-time equivalent employees to some 92,900 people in the year ended March. That period covers the December quarter in 2009, when unemployment peaked at 7.2%.

In a separate release, national carrier Air New Zealand showed passenger numbers kept growing last month, with a 7.4% increase to 1.27 million people in September from a year earlier. Short-haul passengers rose 8.2% to 1.1 million people, while long-haul increased 1.1% to 161,000.

The airline’s load factor, which is the percentage of passengers to seats relative to distance flown, gained 3.9 percentage points to 86.2% in September from the same month a year ago.

About 77% of Air NZ’s domestic flights departed within 10 minutes of schedule departure time due to extreme weather conditions and the impact of the Canterbury earthquake, the company said in a statement.

The shares were flat at $1.34 in trading today.

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