Quarterly Tourism Report

June 18, 2019

This article was produced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The content you find below is exclusive to the Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre.

Document overview

This commentary presents the national context for tourism in the year ending March 2019 (and for the March 2019 quarter where available). The main tourism measures are showing slight growth across the New Zealand tourism industry, strengthened by growth in visitors from outside the top six markets, as well as relatively favourable exchange rates.

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This Report will help with initiatives from the Tourism Data Domain Plan

The Tourism Data Domain Plan (TDDP) sets out the main priorities for improving tourism statistics, based on agreement by industry and government stakeholders. The QTR fills some gaps identified in the TDDP. In particular, the QTR aims to improve data usability and capability within the sector. The QTR assists in the following specific initiatives:

More information on the TDDP is available here.

Section 1 - National

The commentary below presents the national context for tourism in the year ending March 2019 (and for the March 2019 quarter where available). The key findings are listed below and expanded on the following sub-sections:

Key finding 1 - International visitor spend grew slightly faster than visitor numbers

Spend by international visitors in New Zealand grew three per cent to $11.2 billion for the year ending March 2019. This equated to an overall increase of $342 million over the year (although the growth was not statistically significant).

Total international tourism spend
Figure 1 - Total international spend. The graph shows the rolling annual spend and its relative margin of error in New Zealand dollars from 2009 to 2019. Source: International Visitor Survey, from MBIE.

Over the same period, the number of international visitors increased by one per cent to 3.9 million. Spend grew slightly faster than visitor numbers, due to a two per cent increase in average spend per visitor (up to $3,300).

Total Visitor Arrivals
Figure 2 - Total Visitor Arrivals. The graph shows the rolling annual visitor arrivals from 2009 to 2019. Source: International Travel and Migration, Stats NZ.
Average Spend Per Visitor
Figure 3 - Average Spend Per Visitor. The graph shows the rolling annual average spend per visitor and its relative margin of error from 2009 to 2019. Source: International Visitor Survey, from MBIE.

Key finding 2 - Exchange rates were likely to have positively affected spend

One reason for the increase in average spend is likely to have been the fall in the New Zealand dollar against many of our major tourism markets over the year. This fall increased the purchasing power of visitors, allowing them to spend more in New Zealand dollars for the same amount of their home currency.

The following graph shows that the annual Trade Weighted Index (TWI) fell three per cent for the year ended March 2019. The TWI is an index showing the value of the New Zealand dollar in relation to our major trading partners.

Trade Weighted Index (TWI)
Figure 4 - Trade Weighted Index (TWI). The graph shows the annual and quarterly rolling average Trade Weighted Index from 2009 to 2019. Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Key finding 3 - Seasonally adjusted quarterly spend remained unchanged from the previous quarter

After adjusting for seasonal impacts, international visitor spend remained unchanged for the March 2019 quarter, when compared with the December 2018 quarter.

Seasonally adjusted quarterly spend
Figure 5 - Seasonally adjusted quarterly spend. The graph shows the quarterly and seasonally adjusted quarterly spend from 2009 to 2019. Source: International Visitor Survey, from MBIE.

Key finding 4 - Guest night growth slows to one per cent

There were 40.2 million guest nights in measured commercial accommodation (hotels, motels, backpackers and holiday parks) in the year ended March 2019, up one per cent (or 260,000) from the previous year. This figure includes both domestic (up 2.1 per cent) and international (down 1.2 per cent) visitors. Domestic visitors make up approximately 60 per cent of all guest nights.

Backpackers contributed the most to the fall in international visitor nights, down 229,000 (6.1 per cent). This was followed by motels, down 78,000 (1.8 per cent) and holiday parks, down 36,000 (1.6 per cent).

Please note that this measure is partial, and does not include guest nights in hosted accommodation, such as homes rented through a peer-to-peer network such as Airbnb. It also does not include guest nights in holiday homes or people staying with friends and family.

Guest nights by accommodation type
Figure 6 - Guest nights by accommodation type. The graph shows the rolling annual guest nights by accommodation type from the end of 2009 to 2019. Source: International Visitor Survey, from MBIE.

Section 2 - Country

The commentary below presents the national context at the country level for tourism in the year ending March 2019 (and for the March 2019 quarter where available). The key findings are listed below and expanded on the following sub-sections:

Key finding 1 - Spending in most larger markets relatively flat, apart from the UK which was significantly down

Most of New Zealand’s large tourism markets showed little change in spend in the year ended March 2019. Australian spend increased two per cent (to $2.65 billion) while Chinese spend fell two per cent (to $1.63 billion).

Total spend by country
Figure 7 - Total spend by country. The graph shows the rolling annual spend in New Zealand dollars by country from 2009 to 2019. Source: International Visitor Survey, from MBIE.

Spend from UK visitors fell 13 per cent in the year ended March 2019. This was due to a 10 per cent fall in arrivals and an 8 per cent fall in average spend. Although the majority of the fall was due to the DHL British and Irish Lions Series that was held in mid-July 2017, arrival numbers (when seasonally adjusted) have been trending down slightly over the year ended March 2019.

Total visitor arrivals from UK
Figure 7 - Total visitor arrivals from UK. The graph shows the quarterly and seasonally adjusted rolling average arrivals from UK for the years 2009 to 2019. Source: International Travel and Migration, from Stats NZ.

Key finding 2 - Other Asian markets saw growth in spend and visitor numbers

The growth in spend relied heavily on markets outside our largest six. Even though spend increased $343 million in the year ended March 2019 overall, spend outside the top six markets increased by $504 million. Spend by Other Asia countries (excluding China, Korea and Japan) made up a large proportion of this increase, up 15 per cent in the year to $1.3 billion.

Other Asia countries also continue to be a major source of growth for international visitors. While other Asian countries’ visitor numbers remain smaller than our main tourism markets, there has been considerable growth over the year. For example, visitors from India grew 8 per cent to 68,000, Taiwan grew 27 per cent to 48,000, the Philippines grew 10 per cent to 28,000 and Indonesia grew 9 per cent to 26,000.

Section 3 - Region

The commentary below presents the regional context for tourism in the year ending March 2019 (and for the March 2019 quarter where available). The key findings are listed below and expanded in the following sub-sections:

Key finding 1 - Gisborne led growth in tourism spend in the regions

Most regions achieved growth in tourism spend in the year ended March 2019. The fastest-growing regions were Gisborne (up 11.6 per cent), Taranaki (up 7.0 per cent) and Wellington (up 6.3 per cent).

The West Coast and Northland were two regions where spend fell in the period, down 2.5 percent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

Key finding 2 - The Christchurch terror attacks appears to have had little impact on tourism spend

The horrific terror attacks in Christchurch in mid-March have had a huge impact on so many people, as well as the city and New Zealand as a whole. However, at least up to the end of April 2019, this hasn’t translated into a measurable effect on international or domestic tourism spending, in the Christchurch City Territorial Authority (TA) or in the rest of New Zealand. International visitor spending in Christchurch has continued to rise. However, these visitors are likely to book flights months in advance, and so any effects on arrivals and spend may not be seen until further into the future.

Total spending in Christchurch City
Figure 8 - Total spending in Christchurch City. The graph shows the international and domestic rolling annual spend in New Zealand dollars for the years 2013 to 2019. Source: Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates, from MBIE.

Although annual domestic spend in Christchurch has grown nearly five per cent in the year to April 2019 compared to the previous year, the growth has been decreasing since the start of the year. This appears to have been a trend since well before the attacks, with falls in domestic visitor spend seen in January through to April.

When comparing the domestic spend for the four gateway cities (cities that contain a major international airport), they seem to follow a similar pattern, with the exception of Wellington, which has continued to grow. It is important to note that, while domestic spend has fallen from the highs seen in 2018, it remains stronger than in the same period in 2017.

Total domestic tourism spend by TA
Figure 8 - Total domestic tourism spend by TA. The graph shows the total rolling annual spend in New Zealand dollars for Auckland, Christchurch City, Queenstown-Lakes District and Wellington City for the years 2013 to 2019. Source: Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates, from MBIE.

Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates or MRTE Insights Viewer

The MRTE Insights Viewer presents tourism spend data from the Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates in a map and shows key breakdowns by area. Data is available at Regional Council, RTO region, and Territorial Authority areas. Click here to start exploring the MRTE Insights Viewer.

Section 4 - Minimal arrival growth Q1 2019

The key findings for this section are listed below and expanded in the following sub-sections:

Key finding 1 - The timing of Easter affected visitor growth

In 2018, Easter took place at the end of March, meaning that most people who travelled to New Zealand on their Easter holidays (most often Australians) were in March. For 2019 however, Easter was in mid-April. This was, in part, why overall quarterly visitor growth was lower than seen in the same period the previous year.

Key finding 2 - A large decrease in Chinese arrivals in the March 2019 quarter slowed growth overall

The first quarter of 2019 (January to March) saw a lot of media coverage around a slowdown in international arrival numbers to New Zealand, especially in the Chinese market. Chinese arrival numbers fell 9.3 per cent (13,900) when comparing the March 2019 quarter to the same one the previous year. Arrival numbers also fell in other large markets, with the UK down 6,900 (6.5 per cent) and Australia down 3,500 (0.9 per cent).

Growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter vs March 2018 quarter
Figure 9 - Growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter vs March 2018 quarter. The graph shows the growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter compared to March 2018 quarter. Source: International Travel, from Stats NZ.

Key finding 3 - The fall in Chinese arrivals appears to be more apparent in larger provinces

Chinese spending in the March 2019 quarter fell 7.4 per cent when compared with the same quarter in the previous year. This has been heavily affected by the 9.3 per cent fall in arrival numbers in the same period. In 2018, a third of all Chinese visitors to New Zealand arrived in the first quarter. The drop in Chinese arrival numbers and the resulting decrease in spend in the first quarter of this year, had a significant impact on annual spend figures overall.

The Chinese provinces that have historically sourced the largest volumes of visitors showed the greatest fall in arrival numbers over the quarter. Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Beijing all fell by over 10 per cent in March 2019 quarter, when compared with the same quarter the year before. This is compared with Jiangsu province where arrival numbers only fell by 4.8 per cent on average.

Please note the IVS uses departure numbers in its methodology so arrival numbers may differ within smaller periods. Also note that many other provinces in China are not included in the travel statistics.

Growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter vs March 2018 quarter by province
Figure 10 - Growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter vs March 2018 quarter by province. The graph shows the growth in arrivals in March 2019 quarter compared to March 2018 quarter by Chinese province. Source: International Travel, from Stats NZ.

Over the year ended March 2019, the story appears similar. Arrival numbers from Beijing fell 7.6 per cent, Shanghai 3.7 per cent and Guangdong 3.6 per cent. However, Chinese arrival numbers from Zhejiang and Jiangsu were relatively flat.

Chinese arrivals to New Zealand by province
Figure 11 - Chinese arrivals to New Zealand by province. The graph shows the rolling annual arrivals by Chinese province for the years 2010 to 2019. Source: International Travel, from Stats NZ.

Section 5 - Data Sources

The QTR covers the performance of the tourism sector over the last year. The report draws on data from a range of sources, including:

Dataset 1 - International Visitor Survey

The International Visitor Survey (IVS) was developed to provide accurate, quarterly, national information on the expenditure of international visitors to New Zealand, as well as their behaviours and characteristics. In particular, the main purpose of the IVS is to measure the total annual expenditure by international visitors in New Zealand. In addition, the IVS:

More information is available here.

Dataset 2 - Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates

The Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates (MRTEs) provides estimates of regional tourism spend for international and domestic travellers, broken down by country of origin and tourism product. The estimates are developed using:

More information is available here.

Dataset 3 - International Travel and Migration Statistics

International Travel and Migration Statistics are produced by Stats NZ from arrival and departure card information. This data provides the number of overseas visitors, New Zealand resident travellers, and permanent and long-term migrants entering or leaving New Zealand.

More information is available here.

Dataset 4 - Accommodation Survey

The Accommodation Survey is run by Stats NZ by surveying all economically significant hotels, motels, holiday parks and backpackers in New Zealand. The survey provides information about short-term commercial accommodation activity at national, regional, and lower levels. Statistics include guest night numbers, capacity, and occupancy rates.

More information is available here.

Dataset 5 - Immigration New Zealand dataset

Immigration New Zealand provides data for people arriving in New Zealand on visas.

More information is available here.