Aussie tourists are biggest spenders in New Zealand

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The amount of money spent by international visitors hit a record high of $6.2 billion last year, despite fallout from the global financial crisis.

Ministry of Tourism figures show spending grew by $240 million or 4 per cent in 2009 even though the number of people coming to New Zealand was flat at 2.458 million – down just 121 people.

Managing director Ray Salter said higher levels of spending by Australian and Chinese visitors was the main reason behind the boost.

“Australians come for a shorter time but their spend here is quite good. When you start breaking it down into nights and days it’s generally a good news story. Their spend has actually improved.”

Spending by Australians grew by 11.6 per cent to $1.8 billion, higher than the 11 per cent rise in visitor numbers.

Salter said the Chinese market had also shifted from short-stay low spenders to longer-stay higher spenders, with spending growing 27 per cent to $293 million last year.

German visitors also opened up their wallets, boosting spending by 22.5 per cent to $293 million. “Overall our feeling is that we are getting a higher value visitor.” But other long-haul markets did not perform as well.

Spending by British visitors was down 11 per cent to $812 million and cash laid out by Americans fell 3.2 per cent to $597 million.

Salter said the total spend had far outweighed expectations.

Some had predicted a fall of 10 per cent last year, while the ministry had thought it would be down 4 per cent.

“The Australian figure just went beyond everybody’s expectations.”

Salter expected spending by long-haul visitors to recover this year but said it could be a challenge to maintain the Australian growth. “We do have a feeling that Australians might revert to more long-haul activity.”

But he said he expected to revise forecasts for this year upwards in the next few weeks.