22 Jun 2009

Visitors from Australia top 1 million

6:35 pm on 22 June 2009

An increase in visitor numbers from Australia has helped to partly offset the overall downturn being experienced by New Zealand's tourism sector.

Statistics New Zealand on Monday released international travel and migration figures for the 12 months to May.

The figures show that, for the first time in any year, there were more than 1 million arrivals from Australia. It is an increase of 4%, or 35,500 arrivals, on the same period a year earlier.

Though arrivals to New Zealand from its nearest neighbour are rising, the global figure of 2.4 million visitor arrivals was down 64,200, or 3%, on the previous period.

In May, there were 9,200 more visitor arrivals from Australia compared with the previous May, but that was almost offset by 8,600 fewer visitors from Korea, China and Japan.

The number of New Zealand residents departing overseas in the past year was 163,700, a fall of 6%.

More money 'likely' for Australian campaign

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand is likely to increase the amount it spends attracting visitors from Australia.

New Zealand spends about $10 million a year marketing to Australians, including $2.5 million allocated in March.

Mr Key, who is also the Minister of Tourism, says visitors from Australia are offsetting a dramatic drop in tourists from Korea, China and Japan which have been affected by swine flu.

Mr Key says competitive airfares, good flight capacity and Australians choosing to holiday closer to home due to the recession are reasons for the increase in visitor numbers.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar says the Australian market is critical to New Zealand in the current economic environment.

Mr Cossar says the milestone of 1 million arrivals highlights the fact that gold can be made when the industry comes together to put its collective grunt behind a campaign.