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Tourism New Zealand

Australian tourists propping up sector


Most of New Zealand's top tourism markets are depressed, with Australia the main stalwart holding visitors numbers steady.

Huge investment into Australia from Tourism New Zealand and big tourism firms has paid off with Aussie visitors boosted by nearly 10 per cent for the year to October.

However six of the seven top markets outside of the trans-Tasman relationship have declined in the same period.

Numbers from the United States, Britain and Canada have shrunk between 6 and 10 per cent.

Inbound Tour Operators' Council chief executive Paul Yeo said forward bookings for Christmas were not as impressive as they could be, with noted softening in traditional friends and family markets like Britain.

Germany remained the only big Western market to grow, by 4 per cent for the year to October.

The strength in German visitor numbers showed some potential for growth in the main continental European markets, Mr Yeo said. "We probably never tapped into it as much as we should have, simply because there were probably easier pickings."

Asian travellers had been particularly susceptible to the economic downturn and swine flu scares, with Japan and Korea continuing established trends down 30 per cent and more.

Even China, bouncing back slightly of late, was down 8.4 per cent for the year.

Mr Yeo said October was never a strong month, as the shoulder season began and skifields closed down for the year. "December is going to be the first interesting move, but we still expect those markets [other than Australia] to be six months away from any significant growth."

Tourism businesses were not fooling themselves that the summer was going to be a prosperous one.

The numbers were tracking towards a static year in terms of visitor numbers, which was better than what was previously picked as a drop of about 5 per cent, Mr Yeo said. "The only thing that has saved us is Australia."

The strength in Australia's market needed to be seen as a new threshold, rather than a temporary boost to offset falls elsewhere, he said.

"We don't want to see it disappear as the other markets come back; it's been a quantum jump up, it'd be nice to keep this as the new base number."

Australian tourists propping up sector
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Source: The Dominion Post

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