August 20, 2018
Merewyn Groom

Lions bump hides steady increase in June guest nights

Typically a quiet month for short-term commercial accommodation, June 2018 international guest nights fell 8.2 percent compared with the month of June 2017. However, this seemingly sour news is deceptive. Last year saw the very successful tour of the British and Irish Lions rugby team which brought thousands of wintertime visitors to New Zealand to attend the games and have a holiday. We saw a similar impact on New Zealand guest nights from the previous Lions tour 11 years ago.

A fairer comparison is the trend in guest nights over the preceding 5 years, which shows a steady increase in the number of international guest nights year on year. Comparing June 2016 to June 2018 international guest nights are up by 4.8 percent.


Overall annual total guest nights are a little under 40 million and growing steadily, though that growth is not being evenly shared across the country.

The Lions effect is especially obvious if we look at the year on year 12 month percentage change. The Nelson/Tasman area stands out as it saw significant declines of international visitors for the year to June 2018. Southland continues to have the highest growth figures, and even though that growth appears to be slowing it was still in double digits at 10.6 percent.


The accommodation survey collects data for guests staying in short-term commercial accommodation such as hotels, motels, backpackers, and holiday parks. This does not include hosted and private accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts and holiday homes, despite the increasing popularity of websites such as Airbnb.

In 2017 Airbnb had over 4000 listings in the Queenstown-Lakes District. This was equivalent to 41 percent of the size of the commercial accommodation sector (Queenstown District Council). Reportedly, one in 10 dwellings in the Queenstown Lakes District are listed on the increasingly popular website.

This means that the total number of guest nights is likely to be higher than what is reflected in the survey.