On 5 March 2012, Statistics New Zealand released their international migration data for January 2012.
This data revealed that overseas visitor numbers are currently on the rise, with just over 2.6 million arriving in New Zealand in the year to January 2012. This is a 2.7 percent increase compared with the year to January 2011. The increasing number of overseas visitors is very good news for our tourist sectors. Particularly as two of our largest visitor markets, the UK and USA, have struggling economies and the visitor numbers from these markets are dropping.
Australia remains our main source of tourists, with 44 percent of all our overseas visitors coming from there. China, however, is growing in importance. Visitor numbers grew by 20.7 percent in the latest year, to 154,000. If this growth can be sustained, China will become our second largest source of visitors within the next three years.
China is continuing to rapidly develop its economy and their middle class is growing in size and wealth. With direct air-links between Auckland and Shanghai and Auckland and Beijing, New Zealand is in a good position to attract a growing number of these newly wealthy middle class Chinese visitors to New Zealand.
On a sadder note annual permanent net migration has moved from a net gain of 8,689 for the year to January 2011 to a 3,134 net loss for the year to January 2012. This is the first annual January net loss since 2001, when there was a net loss of 11,770 people.
This change in our permanent migration has come from a 26 percent increase in the number of New Zealanders packing their bags and making the short hop across the Tasman Sea to Australia.
If this net loss continues it will become very worrying as New Zealand relies on permanent migrations for population growth and to maintain a steady stream of workers into our labour force.