International visitor arrivals and expenditure both increased in 2011, boosted by Rugby World Cup 2011 and the growing number of travellers coming here to visit friends and relatives, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand says.
In the year ending December 2011, international visitors to New Zealand were 2.601 million, up 3% on 2010 and the first time annual arrivals have exceeded 2.6 million. During the same period visitor expenditure reached $5.763 billion, up 3% on 2010.
The increase in expenditure was largely attributable to RWC 2011, which pumped around $390 million into the economy, says TIA Chief Executive Tim Cossar.
“Given the challenging trading conditions for tourism businesses in 2011, the increase in visitor arrivals and expenditure is a good result for the industry,” says Mr Cossar. He cautions, however, that New Zealand needs to do more to increase its share of higher-spending holidaymakers
“The 2.601 million visitor arrivals last year included 1.216 million holidaymakers, an increase of just 0.3% on 2010. At the same time we saw the number of travellers coming here to visit friends and relatives increase by 7.1% to almost 834,000.”
“While we welcome all visitors and the contribution they make to the economy, those that come here to visit friends and relatives generally spend less on things like accommodation, eating out, transport and activities than those who come for a holiday.”
Mr Cossar says the increase in arrivals visiting friends and relatives (VFR) was particularly noticeable in the Australian market, New Zealand’s largest visitor market.
“The number of VFR Australians travelling to New Zealand in 2011 was up 8.6% on 2010. At the same time the number of Australians coming here on holiday declined 1%.”
He says Australian visitor arrivals were boosted by RWC 2011. The UK market, which has been in decline in recent years due to ongoing economic difficulties in that market and added costs in long-haul travel, also showed growth during RWC 2011.
Increased air capacity helped see Chinese visitor arrivals reach just over 145,000 in 2011, up 18.6% on 2010. Expenditure from this market was a record $457 million, and has now overtaken the USA as New Zealand’s third largest spending visitor market.
The introduction of new air services also supported strong growth in visitor arrivals from Malaysia and Singapore.
“Rugby World Cup aside, 2011 was a challenging year for many tourism operators. However, the growth in visitor arrivals and visitor expenditure allows for some guarded optimism for the year ahead,” Mr Cossar says.
“It’s important to build on that growth, and as an industry, continue to look for new ways to increase the number of higher-spending holiday makers travelling to New Zealand.”
For more information on the latest International Visitor Arrivals click here and for the latest International Visitor Survey (expenditure) click here.