22 Apr 2013

Visitor numbers soar in March

8:48 pm on 22 April 2013

Easter, cricket and The Hobbit films are being credited for a record-breaking number of overseas visitors in March.

Statistics New Zealand says figures topped the previous best March five years ago, with record arrivals from Australia, China and Germany.

More than 270,000 people visited the country - up 13% on the same period last year.

The earlier timing of Easter helped boost visitors from Australia, China, Britain, the United States, Japan and Germany.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says having Easter fall in March will have boosted the number of Australians visiting.

Mr Bowler says cricket fans following the English team revived declining numbers from Britain, while interest generated by The Hobbit films fuelled arrivals from the United States.

Annual visitor numbers remain flat, but the tourism industry is cheered by the upturn from traditional markets which had been dented by the global economic downturn.

However, ANZ senior economist Mark Smith says while the record number of visitors is positive, they might be cutting back on spending due to a high New Zealand dollar.

Mr Smith says when the exchange rate strengthens people still tend to come to New Zealand, but probably spend a bit less than they would have otherwise.

Meanwhile, about 155,000 New Zealanders left for overseas trips in the month - up 2% from March 2012.