Year ends with visitor numbers at 2.6M for the first time

A record number of overseas visitors arriving in December ended the 2011 year in growth and resulted in the first full year of visitor arrivals topping 2.6 million, signaling a good start to the summer, says Tourism New Zealand's Chief Executive Kevin Bowler.

Arrivals for the month were 364,165, up 5.4 per cent on the same period last year. Holiday arrivals were up 2,100 and arrivals for conferences and conventions up 1,200.

Statistics New Zealand's International Travel and Migration figures show 2.6 million visitors came to New Zealand in 2011, up three percent on the previous year.

Mr Bowler says while most operators will reflect on 2011 as a very tough period, the figures show that New Zealand held its own in what was a year of contrast.

"The highs were really high for some operators, with the Rugby World Cup 2011 providing a needed boost, but the lows mostly over the first half of the year were extremely low.

"These figures show just how resilient the sector is and to end the year in growth is an excellent outcome.

"Over the course of the year, total stay days increased 2.2 per cent to 51.6M and holiday stay days were only slightly down -0.9 per cent.

"Australian arrivals were up in December by 6.7 per cent.  As our largest market this translates into significant numbers.  United States was also back in growth for the month at two per cent improvement.

"Growth out of Asia continued in December with Malaysia (up 1,200 arrivals, +31.8 per cent), China (up 4,200 arrivals, +29.9 per cent) and Singapore (up 1,700 arrivals, +26.3 percent) all continuing with double digit growth against the same month last year.

"We are also starting to see positive signs out of the Korean market with total arrivals up 2.7 per cent this month and holiday arrivals up 11.8 per cent after a very weak year since the February Christchurch earthquake.

"As 2012 gets into full swing, we're expecting to see continued strong performances from Australia and most parts of Asia.  The USA and Europe continue to be challenging markets for New Zealand, but they remain vitally important and high on our marketing priorities."

Issued by Deborah Gray, Communications Manager, Tourism New Zealand; phone +64 21 410 626