Stats allow operators to track tourist spending

Tourist operators can now track where visitors spend their money, gauging the impact of music festivals, sports games and new visitor attractions on regional economies.

A new regional tourism series by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment uses electronic card transactions from BNZ and Paymark to show how and where tourists spend, dividing holiday splurges into categories such as food, accommodation and retail as well as country of origin.

People could see, for example, that Chinese visitors to Auckland were much more likely to spend money on shopping than other tourists, Associate Tourism Minister Chris Tremain said.

The monthly numbers would help local tourism bodies monitor whether marketing campaigns were working and which target markets were more likely to spend money on their services, he said.

Data since 2008 shows tourists from China - the second-biggest source of tourists after Australia and the quickest-growing - whizzed through only a small part of the country, spending more than half of their money in Auckland.

Auckland, Otago and the Bay of Plenty grabbed almost all Chinese spending, with Rotorua emerging as the place most reliant on Chinese versus other tourists.

In most parts of the country, Australians are the biggest spenders.

Britons, meanwhile, spread themselves around more evenly, spending less in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty and more in other regions such as the Waikato, Canterbury and Wellington than Chinese people.

The international card data comes from Paymark, which captures about 70 per cent of New Zealand retailers, and does not include prepaid spending, such as pre-booked accommodation.

Domestic spending data is from BNZ, which has about 20 per cent of the New Zealand card market.

Card transactions show international visitor spending fell 13 per cent in the year to October versus 2008.

At the same time, domestic spending by New Zealanders travelling outside their home towns rose 2 per cent.

The figures are gloomier than the Statistics New Zealand Tourism Satellite Account, which shows international tourist spending rising slightly in each of the previous two years to March.

A ministry spokesman said that was largely because the Satellite account measures the whole impact of tourism on GDP, capturing spending on all New Zealand-made products, including international flights on Air New Zealand.

The ministry measures total visitor spending using the International Visitor Survey, based on interviews of 5200 tourists as they leave New Zealand airports each year. That survey found total visitor spend fell 2 per cent in the year to September, despite a 2 per cent increase in arrivals, thanks to more visits by friends and family.

Falling spending per person is expected to remain a challenge for tourism as global economic worries linger and tourists tighten their purse strings.

Visitors from China are predicted to halve their spending to about $1500 a visit by 2020, thanks to changes in the visitor mix.

Fairfax Media