China a bright spot in dire tourism report
The New Zealand tourism sector is set to slow further despite an ongoing boom in the number of visitors from China, as global economic uncertainty and the high kiwi dollar weigh on the industry.
That's according to the latest international visitor survey compiled by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which showed tourism spending was flat for the year despite a 5 per cent increase in the number of visitors to 2.6 million.
Much of that visitor growth came from China, with visitors spending $522m in the New Zealand, up 27 per cent on a year ago.
In fact China is poised to overtake Britain and become New Zealand's second biggest tourist market after Australia.
However, the Chinese visitor momentum isn't fast enough to offset the decline in visitor numbers from the UK, US and Japan, three traditionally strong economies currently mired in recession or near it.
Peter Ellis, tourism research and evaluation manager at the MoBIE super-ministry, said the decline in tourism spend is set to get worse, particularly without an event like the Ruby World Cup to drive revenues.
He estimates the sporting event contributed between $200m and $280m to the New Zealand economy last year.
"If you look over the last few years there been a flattening of tourism expenditure, and when you adjust for inflation, there's been a gradual decline since 2002," he said.
"The current global economic conditions are biting as well as issues such as the high exchange rate."
The New Zealand dollar - currently sitting just over US82 cents or 54.5 pence - has gained around five per cent against the greenback and the pound since January, a measure that's forecast to widen as the European crisis worsens.
Ellis estimates it will take "a number of years" for Chinese visitor spend to make up for the shortfall.
Key indicators to watch for were recoveries in the Japanese and British economies, although neither is expected to snap out of their moribund trajectories any time soon.
- © Fairfax NZ News