Tourism and Export Outlook Positive

  • Bill Birch

The outlook for tourism and exports over the next three years is very positive, Finance Minister Rt Hon Bill Birch said today.

"And while the Asian down-turn is affecting some industries, what is very encouraging is that our exporters - tourism included - are already showing an ability to attract new customers from different markets."

The Minister was speaking to the Tourism Industry Association Leader's Lunch in Wellington.

"Reports focusing on the drop-off in exports to and tourists from Asia misrepresent what is happening in the industry overall.

"For example, yesterday's trade figures showed exports for the three months to April were up an annual 3.8%.

"The more volatile monthly result did show exports to Asia down 27% in April 1998 compared to April 1997.

"However exports picked up to the US (12.7%) and many European destinations."

Mr Birch said it was also worth noting that import growth also weakened in April and imports of consumer goods are moderating while imports of capital and intermediate goods remain strong.

"The April tourism statistics, released last week, showed arrivals increased on a seasonally adjusted monthly basis (up 7%) and were up 3% compared with last year.

"Visitor numbers from Asia were down by 37%, but there were increases in tourists from the US (21%), the UK (4%) and Australia (40%).

"These three countries account for more than 40% of tourists here and it is likely the lower value of the NZ$ against the currencies of these countries is contributing to the increases."

Mr Birch said the lower dollar was cited by all commentators as a key reason they are expecting a pick-up in export, tourism and general economic growth over the next three years.

"The Government too, is committed to increasing growth with its programme of micro-economic reforms to boost competitiveness.

"And tourism particularly will benefit from a series of one-off events from next year onwards - the APEC conference, the America's Cup, the World Golf Cup, the Millennium celebrations, and the flow-on from the Sydney Olympics."

Tourism volumes were expected to contract 11% in the 1997/98 year. But over the next three years growth would resume - initially by 0.6% in 1998/99, then 9% in 1999/2000 and 6.4% the following year.

Treasury forecasts for primary product exports show moderate growth of 3% in 1997/98, then 0.2%, 1.8% and 2.4%.

Manufacturing exports are predicted to grow strongly through the same four-year period. Commodity manufacturing by 11.3% in 97/98, 5.1% the next two years, and 5.3% in 2000/01. Non-commodity manufacturing by 9.8% this year, then 11.8%, 10.5% and 8.2%.

"These figures are why New Zealand's overall economic growth is expected to rebound strongly from the end of this year, to around 4% in 1999/2000."