China and USA boost annual visitor spend to record levels

International visitor spend for the year to March 2018 grew to $10.9 billion off the back of a record March quarter.

The biggest spenders came from Australia ($2.6 billion), China ($1.7 billion), and the USA ($1.3 billion), with China and US travellers contributing to almost half the growth over the year. Visitor arrival figures for the same period showed growth in these markets.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Enterprise’s latest International Visitor Survey, international visitors spent $4.2 billion between January and March 2018 – the highest quarterly figure since records began.

“This is fantastic news for New Zealand and shows tourism continues to be a major contributor to our economy. By way of comparison, a year ago international spend was sitting at $10.02 billion for the year to March 2017. The latest figures reinforce the value of tourism to the country,” says Stephen England-Hall.  

In the year to April 2018, international visitor numbers continued to grow, albeit more moderately than what we have seen in the past. The latest International travel and migration: April 2018 (released by Statistics New Zealand this week) showed overall arrival numbers up 5.4% on a year ago, with considerable increases among our Asian markets with Chinese and Korean arrivals both up 13.6% respectively.

“We are seeing more consistency and moderation in our international market visitor numbers. Over the past year or two we have seen spikes in visitors from particular markets, including the Irish and British Lions Tour, which dramatically increased UK visitor numbers and Chinese New Year impacting China visitors. Assessing monthly figures provides a point-in-time reference and is easily skewed by external influences, however the annual data provides a good assessment of the overall picture, and it appears we are returning to more consistent, sustainable visitor growth,” says Mr England-Hall.

“Looking ahead our insights show that while the industry is predicting growth in the medium to long-term, it is entirely possible that we will see limited growth in our key markets over the short-term. We are affected by volatility in the market with changes in air capacity (particularly within Australian routes), a slowdown in youth market travel (affecting German visitor numbers), others tending to travel domestically (as we’ve seen in the Japan market), and consolidation of travel following one-off peaks, but overall, the industry’s prediction of long-term growth remains valid.”

Mr England-Hall says Tourism New Zealand’s portfolio strategy has proven itself with strong growth in other areas, particularly with USA and China showing upward growth, along with several emerging markets.

“Tourism remains a leading economic driver in New Zealand and as an industry, we are all working together to ensure this growth continues in a sustainable manner. There will always be peaks and troughs but it is important that we manage these and ensure we continue to attract high value international visitors (with spending power) and provide them with the best possible experience during their stay here in New Zealand,” says Mr England-Hall.

Read more:

International Visitor Survey

International travel and migration: April 2018