International visitors boosting economic recovery

  • International tourism recovery well underway with higher level of overseas visitor arrivals than previously expected
  • UK and US card spend already back at pre-COVID levels
  • Visitors staying in New Zealand longer and spending more compared to 2019
  • Govt support throughout pandemic helped tourism sector prepare for return of international tourists

International visitors are returning to New Zealand at higher numbers than previously expected, are staying longer and spending more, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says.

New data from Statistics New Zealand and MBIE show a strong uptick in international visitor numbers and overseas card spend, with June 2022 seeing the highest number of international visitor arrivals since the border was closed in March 2020.

Stuart Nash welcomed today’s release as a positive sign of the tourism sector’s recovery.

“Our tourism operators have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 but the data today show that the recovery is well underway. International visitors are coming back at a strong pace, with American and British visitors’ card spends at 2019 levels,” Stuart Nash said.

“The 94,600 overseas visitors that arrived in June 2022 represents a 30% increase from May 2022, and is more than double compared to international arrivals in June 2021. What is also really positive to see is that visitors from the US and UK are staying longer and spending more than in pre-COVID times – despite visitor numbers being far less than 2019, the card spend is back to the same level.

“The hospitality sector will be happy to see that international accommodation guest nights totalled 272,000 for June 2022, up 43% compared to June 2021. Hotels have also shown a three-fold increase in guest nights compared to April of this year. I know there is still a ways to go to get back to pre-COVID levels but these numbers show a strong growth in demand and represent a higher-than-anticipated winter tourism season.

“The first cruise ship returning this Friday is another boost for local communities. Pre-pandemic their visits were worth in excess of $500 million a year, of which $356 million was spent onshore, providing a valuable economic contribution to our regions. We’re expecting cruise numbers to be similar to pre-COVID levels.

“Our Government has supported the tourism sector throughout the pandemic, working with the industry to respond to the challenges of the past two years. This includes the $400m Tourism Recovery Package, the $200m Tourism Communities Plan, and the $54m Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery. This support went to tourism operators most affected by the border closure, and has helped them to gear up for the return of international visitors.

“Yesterday I also announced the first phase of the Tourism Industry Transformation Plan, which aims to strengthen the tourism workforce and create a thriving, regenerative tourism future for New Zealand. The Plan is a partnership between the Government, industry, unions, and Māori, and sets out a range of measures to improve education and training, provide more resources for business owners and operators, and seize the opportunities of innovation and technology,” Stuart Nash said.