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Latest visitor figures no surprise: China surges ahead

Tourism New Zealand says September's international visitor arrival numbers, released today by Statistics New Zealand, are no surprise and reflect the Rugby World Cup 2011's impact on last year numbers.

Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the year ending September 2012 has visitor arrivals in growth, up 1.8 per cent on 2011 however with total arrivals for the month of September down 19 per cent, the significant boost brought about last year by the rugby cannot be understated.

"This time last year, New Zealand was definitely caught in Rugby World Cup fever with September a key month for pool play games.

"The result was a big increase in visitors from Western and European markets.

"Of course, significant highs usually lead to corresponding lows. Visitors from the United Kingdom in September 2012 were 7,440 compared to 19,456 in September 2011."

However, with the Rugby World Cup 2011 removed from the equation, the situation remains positive.

Total visitor arrivals are up 3.1 per cent on two years ago. In particular Australian arrivals are up 4.5 per cent on two years ago.

Kevin says the figure is actually higher still. "If you were to include Australian arrivals from cruise passengers, then the number would jump again.

"In the 2011/12 cruise season of October to April, 95,000 travellers enjoyed a cruise to New Zealand from Australia but 80,000 of those passengers were not captured by this data because they would have embarked and disembarked in Melbourne or Sydney."

China moves to number three spot for total arrivals

For the year ended September 2012 visitor arrivals from China exceeded arrivals from the USA for the first time becoming the third largest source of visitors to New Zealand, behind Australia and the UK.

Kevin Bowler says this is hugely significant for the industry: "In terms of the number of people operators are seeing, it is increasingly visitors from Asia, not Europe.

"Tourism New Zealand has just completed a nation-wide series of workshops on preparing for the increase in arrivals from China and we know there are many in the industry working hard to support continued growth in this area and the delivery of quality holiday experiences.

"However, although the number of arrivals are high, Chinese stay on average for significantly fewer days than visitors from the United States and Europe, which remain priority markets for Tourism New Zealand.

"Chinese holiday stay days are almost 50 per cent less than stay days for holiday arrivals from the United States.

"We also anticipate the pending release of the Hobbit trilogy will increase preference for travel to New Zealand across the United States and Europe."

For more information on the China market