Lonely Planet Writer

NZ tourism has record-breaking start to 2016

Tourism in New Zealand is on a marked upward curve with last month’s visitor numbers – aided by the Chinese New Year – at their highest ever levels.

Air New Zealand has helped the level of tourists coming from the USA with their flights to and from Houston, Texas
Air New Zealand has helped to bolster the number  of tourists coming from the USA with their flights from Houston, Texas Image by Aero Icarus / CC BY-SA 2.0

The draw of New Zealand has seen overseas visitor numbers hit 3.17 million in the 12 months up to the end of January 2016 – a rise of 10.7% on the previous year. China contributed largely to the growth with a jump in numbers of 42.5%, and tourist arrivals from the USA also increasing by 11.7%. The new route by Air New Zealand to Houston in Texas was praised by Tourism New Zealand for contributing to the rise in traffic between the two countries, with the US seen as a “stand out market” for further tourism growth down the line.

The Chinese New Year helped to swell tourist numbers visiting New Zealand for the first month of this year
The Chinese New Year helped to swell tourist numbers visiting New Zealand for the first month of this year Image by Marufish / CC BY-SA 2.0

Another reason behind the explosion in numbers is the benefit of the lower cost of the dollar for travellers with such legacy items as The Rugby World Cup and Hobbit films also declared as contributing factors. New Zealanders themselves are embarking on holidays abroad like never before with Australia the most popular destination.

More than 3.17 million visitors visited New Zealand last year
More than 3.17 million tourists visited New Zealand last year Image by Jocelyn Kinghorn / CC BY-SA 2.0

Stuff.co.nz recalled that up to a few years ago New Zealand was recording a 40,000 net loss of people to its nearest neighbour. However the downward trend in the Australian economy has turned the tide, with Kiwis returning home and Australians also relocating there. New Zealand attracted a record-breaking 65,900 either permanent or long-term migrants to its shores in the first month of this year, according to official figures.  For the 18th month in succession, the country’s thriving economy is appealing to unprecedented numbers of people – from Kiwis returning home, to UK residents on working holidays to students from China and other parts of Asia.

Radio News Zealand reports that at the same time, there are less people leaving the country; in particular numbers are down to the lowest level for quarter of a century on those relocating to Australia.