More foreign tourists buying less in New Zealand


New Zealand’s record tourist arrival numbers do not translate into record spending. Tourists spending has fallen to the lowest level since 2002, with international visitors contributing 10% less to the economy in 2010 than the previous year.

Figures released by the Economic Development Ministry showed that tourist spending fell by $619 million to $5.6 billion last year.

The lower spend came despite total visitors being up 67,000 compared to 2009 at 2,525,000. It was the lowest annual spend by foreign visitors since 2002.

MED director of tourism, events and consumer affairs Roger Wigglesworth blamed global financial issues for the decline.

“The lower spend in 2010 appears to be the result of the high New Zealand dollar and tourists having less in their pocket because of the global recession,” he said.

Visitors from five of New Zealand’s seven top tourism markets spent less last year than in 2009, with spending by visitors from the United States down 22 per cent, Britain down 17.7 per cent and Japan down 15.3 per cent.

Spending by Chinese and South Korean tourists rose 7.4 per cent and 12.9 per cent respectively, although the total amount spent was less than the percentage increase in visitors, with the average tourist spending less.

In dollar terms, the amount spent by Australians dropped by the largest amount, with visitors from there spending $1.624b in 2010, a fall of $151m, despite 37,000 more Australians visiting.

Average spend for each Australian visitor fell $190 to $1450, although Australia remained New Zealand’s most valuable source of tourism dollars in 2010, worth more than the next three largest markets combined.

Tim Cossar, chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association, said economic conditions clearly played a factor in the fall in spending. “If you think back to when the global financial crisis hit, a lot in the industry put a huge amount of emphasis on just keeping the numbers up out of Australia.”

Tourism operators had been reporting a major change in visitor mix and behaviour for the last year, with fewer tourists from Britain, and a general fall in spending.

There was now a “strong feeling” among operators that New Zealand must keep up its emphasis on marketing itself into the United States and Britain, as well as Europe in general, Mr Cossar said, markets that the industry was built on.

Some operators, in particular in the upper North Island, were reporting strong growth on the back of the rise in Asian visitors and the industry had to learn how to capitalise on the rise in Asian tourists.

“The thing we are going to have to get used to as an industry, and it’s in our faces right now more than ever before, is the rise of Asia. We’re going to have to adjust to how to market [there].”

Earlier this month Tourism NZ chief executive Kevin Bowler said falling spending by tourists was a global phenomenon, with many tourism markets seeing visitor numbers return to pre-financial crisis levels, but lower overall spending.