Release of accommodation data for May confirms growth in the tourism sector was strong across all regions in the months before the arrival of the Lions rugby team.
The total number of guest nights in the 3 months to May was 2.8% higher than year-earlier levels. More noticeable was the nearly 5% surge in the number of international visitor nights.
Large contributions to this growth came from international visitors to Auckland, Otago (which includes Queenstown) and, interestingly, the Central North Island.
Although the Central North Island accounts for a relatively small number of the total guests nights (less than 3% of the nationwide total), it has accounted for more than 11% of recent growth. Further, this does not seem a ‘flash in the pan’ occurrence. The chart below indicates a sustained upswing over the past couple of years, following a lengthy period of no growth. While the popularity of the Tongariro Crossing has been long established, this data suggests further attractions (Whanganui River and cycle trails) may be encouraging an increasing number of overnight stays in the area.
In a similar vein, the also noticeable contribution to growth from visitors to Northland is another region currently punching above its weight. Its 8% contribution to growth contrasts with the relatively small number of guest nights in total – only 4% of the nationwide total.
Amongst other regions, strong contributions from West Coast, Canterbury, and the Top of the South confirm promising levels of activity in the South Island tourism sector. This is doubly reassuring noting the transport and other infrastructure disruptions subsequent to the Kaikoura earthquakes.
In contrast, there are only small contributions to recent growth from the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. These areas include popular tourist attractions (Hobbiton and Rotorua). The picture here though indicates these areas are not attracting increased overnight stays. From a nationwide perspective, this may not necessarily be bad, as efforts to improve the regional dispersal of tourist activity and utilise infrastructure (including accommodation) already present in other areas.
Further evidence of heightened activity in the accommodation sector is seen in occupancy rates data. In particular, in each of the first 5 months of the year occupancy rates were higher than for those in the comparable months of 2016.
And this has occurred across all accommodation types. Average occupancy rate in hotels over the first 5 months was recorded at 74.1%, compared to 72.5% a year earlier. Similarly, motel occupancy was at 67.1% this year compared to 64.4% last year; backpacker occupancy was up at 51.2% this year from the 50.5% last year; and holiday parks occupancy up at 25.2% from 23.6% last year.