, WELLINGTON, May 8 – New Zealand’s tourism industry had “a tough 12 months” in the year to the end of March, with the rise in spending by Chinese visitors the brightest spot in the gloom, the Ministry of Economic Development announced Tuesday.
The one-off influx in overseas visitors for the Rugby World Cup, played in September and October last year, probably saved many in the industry, according to the ministry’s International Visitors Survey.
The survey, based on interviews with 5,200 foreign tourists leaving from New Zealand airports, found that the Korean and Japanese markets each recorded a decline in visitor spending, estimated to be at least 25 percent from the year ending in March 2011.
Tourism research and evaluation manager Peter Ellis said the drop was largely due to the impact of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which left 185 people dead, but also reflected challenges for those markets over a number of years.
“The survey also highlighted the continuing decline of the UK market due to economic reasons and changed travel patterns,” Ellis said in a statement.
Overall, international visitors spent 5.6 billion NZ dollars (4. 44 billion U.S. dollars) in New Zealand in the year to March, excluding international airfares.
Total spending by visitors remained flat despite international visitor arrivals rising by 4 percent in the same period, said the statement.
The average expenditure by each individual visitor was 2,360 NZ dollars, the lowest since the year ending in March 1998 (2,274 NZ dollars), down from 2,430 NZ dollars in the year to March 2011. Spending peaked at 3,256 NZ dollars in the year to March 2002.
Visitors coming for the 2011 Rugby World Cup spent 390 million NZ dollars in total, of which around 280 million NZ dollars was estimated to be a net addition to tourism exports.
“This was a significant counter to the decreased total expenditure from other markets,” Ellis said.
“However, today’s figures continue the significant decline in real tourist expenditure of the past seven years. This is mostly because of the increasing proportion of visitors who are relatively low-spending Australian residents, particularly those coming to New Zealand to visit friends and relatives,” he said.
“The continued rise in total spend by Chinese tourists is the main positive note from this survey.”
Beautiful scenery, family and people were the most commonly reported highlights of tourists’ visits, according to the survey.