International guest nights down in October

JAMES WEIR
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013

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The number of foreign visitors staying in hotels and motels dropped again in October, after falling steadily since mid-year.

Domestic guest nights in October were up 2.6 per cent as more Kiwis stayed in hotels and motels, but international guest nights dropped 3.6 per cent in the month, according to Statistics NZ figures out yesterday.

Part of that reflects a sudden slump in arrivals from China in October after the introduction of new travel rules in China, which made many overseas tours more expensive. In September, 16,600 Chinese tourists arrived in New Zealand, but just 8900 arrived in October.

Overall, total guest nights in hotels, motels, backpackers and holiday parks in October were up 0.5 per cent, after a 2.2 per cent drop in September.

It was the fifth monthly fall in international guest nights in a row, despite actual tourist arrivals rising strongly this year.

The biggest drop in international guest nights was in Auckland.

Taking into account the usual seasonal patterns, international guest nights were down by more than 130,000 a month from the levels of more than 1.15 million a month in May.

That weaker trend since May runs counter to a rising trend in visitor arrival numbers in the past year, up about 10 per cent.

The American market, for example, is bouncing back strongly, up almost 20 per cent so far this year, since the first Hobbit movie came out in December last year.

The fall in guest nights in hotels and motels may reflect tourists staying for shorter periods, and a change in the mix of arrivals, with more short-stay Australians and Chinese arriving, and fewer Europeans who tend to stay much longer.

Despite the trend down in international guest nights, the industry is upbeat, and is "in the best shape since the global financial crisis" in 2008, Tourism NZ corporate affairs general manager Chris Roberts says.

Other than China since October, almost every other market was improving, even Britain.

There was a strong rebound from the US after the first Hobbit movie came out at the end of last year, and Japan was bouncing back, too, as global long-distance travel picked up again after the global financial crisis.

Within a fortnight of the first Hobbit movie coming out in the US last year, tourist numbers from that country turned around from decline "and have been spectacularly successful ever since", Roberts said.

While it may not be the only factor, it had a clear influence.

"We hope with the release of the second [Hobbit] movie last week, that can be sustained." "The Middle-earth promotion remains one of the best investments we can make."

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While China remains New Zealand's second largest tourist market and had been growing strongly for about five years, it has just had its first big plunge.

Tourism New Zealand believes growth in the market is likely to pick up again by Chinese New Year at the end of January.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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