News & Activity

Thursday, February 29, 2024

New data sees tourism sector move up the ranks as major employer

New Zealand’s tourism sector is supporting communities across New Zealand, directly and indirectly employing 317,514 New Zealanders and providing a critical contribution to our economy.

The annual Tourism Satellite Account released by Statistics New Zealand today shows that $10.8 billion in international visitor spend supported New Zealand’s economy.

Total tourism expenditure was $37.7 billion, an increase of 39.6 percent ($10.7 billion) from the previous year.

“Tourism is a critical contributor to New Zealand’s economy and supports our regions and communities,” says Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Rene de Monchy.

The data also shows that Tourism is also a major employer, directly and indirectly employing one in 9 New Zealanders.

“During COVID we sadly saw many businesses go under, this included some in the tourism sector. It’s great to see that two years later that 6786 tourism operators are back and providing much need jobs across New Zealand.”

Ngāi Tahu Tourism General Manager Jolanda Cave says being able to welcome back international manuhiri (visitors) to its experiences has been amazing.

“The opportunity to share our Manaakitanga to manuhiri from all regions, particularly China and the United States which are such important markets for New Zealand, and the flow on effect this has had for local communities.”

Tourism second largest export earner

The data positions Tourism as New Zealand’s second largest export earner, playing a significant role supporting the country as it faces tough global conditions, and regions as they recover from other challenges.

Hawke’s Bay Tourism Chief Executive Hamish Saxton says tourism’s contribution to the region’s recovery after Cyclone Gabrielle was critical as it could rebound faster than other sectors and help support communities.

“Hawke’s Bay’s visitor economy rebounded to record its highest ever contribution to the regional GDP, of $775million for the 12months to September 2023. Additionally, numerous accommodation providers in Hawke’s Bay have since recorded their busiest-ever January, with the Accommodation Data Programme showing hotel occupancy in the region at 85 percent and motels at 86 percent for the month.

Head of Destination & Communications at Northland Inc Tania Burt says visitation has returned to pre-pandemic trends.

“With visitation sitting at around 70 per cent domestic and 30 per cent international visitors, there is room for growth in our international arrivals and this is a focus for the region moving forward,” she says.

“In areas of Northland such as the Bay of Islands, local communities have a long history of providing experiences, services and manaakitanga to visitors to their towns, and they embrace the vibrant energy which visitors bring.  The benefit of tourism is widespread to our communities, as visitors travel throughout our region and our reputation for, and exchange of, connection, heartfelt manaaki and local storytelling is growing. The tourism industry currently employs 8% of the Northland workforce, however benefits run much deeper through the cultural exchange and shared experiences for our visitors and communities alike,” she says.

The Challenge Ahead

However, continued tourism levels and growth is not guaranteed.

“The pool of people in our key markets who are actively considering visiting New Zealand has reduced by about 14% since COVID-19. Cost of living pressures, strong competition from other destinations and readiness to travel post pandemic have contributed to this decline,” says de Monchy,

“Tourism New Zealand is working hard to encourage visitation, with a focus on the off-peak months to support the sector increase its year-round productivity and sustainability.”

Prior to global COVID pandemic, Tourism was New Zealand’s largest export earner.


  • View the full data release here(opens in new window)
  • Total international visitor arrivals YE March 23: 2.2m
  • Total international visitor arrival growth YOY: 858% 
  • Total visitor spend growth YOY: 456% 
  • Total International visitor spend growth YOY: $10.8
  • 1 in 9 New Zealanders employed in the tourism sector
  • Top six visitor markets: Australia, China, USA, UK, Germany, Japan