Diversification and strong tourism numbers from Australia and Europe are being credited for helping backpackers and holiday parks dodge the worst of the tourism downturn.
Statistics New Zealand released their accommodation survey for May 2009 today, showing total guest nights spent in short-term commercial accommodation were down 1 percent from last year to 2 million.
However, while hotels, motels and hosted accommodation all saw fewer guest nights, the numbers rose at backpackers and caravan parks by 1 and 5 percent respectively.
Holiday Park Association chief executive Fergus Brown told BusinessDay interest in budget accommodation has held up well because the recession was causing more locals to holiday closer to home, and favoured lower cost accommodation.
Also, recent months have seen an increase in the number of Australians holidaying here, while tourism from Europe - the main markets for backpackers and caravan parks - have held up well. The downturn in tourists from Asia has largely passed holiday parks by.
Brown also credits caravan parks' diversification to include a range of "built" accommodation.
"In the past, a holiday park would just be somewhere you'd stick your caravan. Now a lot of places have park motels, or cabin style built accommodation. Some even have backpacker style accommodation which is popular with school groups," he said.
Overall, the North Island suffered the brunt of the fall, seeing a 2 percent decrease to 1.2 million guest nights while the South Island picked up much of the slack, increasing guest nights by 2 percent to 800,000.
International visitors contributed 800,000 guest nights, down 7000 nights, or 1 percent on last year. The North Island saw 6 percent fewer guest nights from tourists, or 385,000, compared to the South Island which had 5 percent more international visitor guest nights, up to 366,000.
Auckland suffered the most, with 27,000, or 14 percent, fewer guest nights this year than in the same period last year, while Canterbury and Otago gained 6 and 7 percent more nights respectively - around 8,000 nights each.
Tourists provided 31 percent of total guest nights in the North Island and provided 46 percent of those in the South.
Guest nights from local travelers were down 6000, or 1 percent on last year.
Hotels continued to be to most popular form of accommodation, followed by motels with 33 percent and backpackers with 16 percent.
Hotels saw 18,000, or 2 percent, fewer guest nights, while motels were down 8,000 or 1 percent and hosted accommodation dropped 3,000 nights, or 11 percent.
Caravan parks and camping grounds remain popular, gaining 5 percent or 13,000 guest nights on last year while backpackers were up around 1 percent, or 3,000 nights.
Government statistician Christine Sadler said the trend for budget accommodation has been on the rise since last year.
"After a period of decreases in the second half of 2008, the trend level for backpackers/hostels has been increasing since November 2008," Sadler said.
"The rate of the increase in the trend has been accelerating, and in May 2009, the trend level was 6 percent higher than in November 2008," she added.
Meanwhile, occupancy levels, excluding camping grounds, was at its lowest May level since 2000 at 41 percent, 1 percent down on last year.