Visitor numbers continue to grow - but are they the right visitors?

Thursday April 26, 2012 Hugh Dixon

While the increasing number of total overseas visitors is good news for our tourism sector, the largest gains in visitor numbers are coming from Australia (up 56,300) and China (up 30,700). While Australia represents our largest visitor market with 45 percent of all visitors in the year to March 2012, Australians tend to spend small amounts when travelling in New Zealand. 

What New Zealand needs is to see strong growth in the number of visitors coming from all our high spending regions - China, Europe, Japan and the US.

The latest data release shows that while annual Chinese visitors are increasing quickly, up 21 percent for the latest year, European visitor numbers only increased slightly, up 3.3 percent. Also visitor numbers for the USA were down 3.1 percent and Japanese visitor numbers were down 24 percent. For Japan, this decrease in visitors is mainly a result of the devastating earthquake in the Tohoku region last year and continuing flow-on effects of the Christchurch earthquake, which is a major destination for Japanese visitors.