International tourist numbers up 1.2m in the last five years
International tourist numbers have risen 1.2m in the last five years, but enthusiasm about the economic benefits they bring is tempered by concern about the negative impact of such rapid growth.
Latest figures from Statistics NZ figures show 3.8m tourists visited in the year to March, yet another record.
A tourism industry mood of the nation survey of 555 people released on Friday shows most Kiwis believe international tourists are good for New Zealand, but one in five still thinks we attract too many of them.
The number who believe international tourist put too much pressure on the country has dropped 1 per cent, but at 39 per cent, the figure is still more than double what it was in late 2015.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said the improvement, albeit small, was a good sign.
“It is heartening that this trend has levelled off in the latest survey and overall sentiment has slightly improved.”
The rapid increase in tourist numbers had caught some communities by surprise and created some challenges, and the industry was working with central and local government to address this, said Roberts.
According to the survey, pressure on infrastructure was the top concern, as well as accommodation shortages, environmental damage, freedom camping, traffic congestion and road safety
Concerns were higher in Queenstown and Auckland, with negative feeling strongest in Otago where 55 per cent of residents thought tourism was putting too much pressure on the country.
Economic benefits topped the list of pros for international tourism, while cons focussed on traffic congestion and the increased risk and incidence of road accidents.
International tourism is New Zealand’s biggest export earner, contributing $14.5 billion a year to the economy, and directly or indirectly employing one-in-seven New Zealanders.
In the year to March, Australia remained our largest visitor market (39 per cent), followed by China (11 per cent), the US (9 per cent), and the UK (7 per cent).
Auckland Airport showed the biggest increase in arrivals, up almost 190,000, while Christchurch Airport arrivals rose 57,700 to 554,700.
Wellington Airport was the only main centre to show a drop, with arrivals down 3800.
The record arrivals are reflected in the rise in spending by tourists with half the country’s 16 regions enjoying double digit increases for the year.
Spending figures for March, traditionally a shoulder season, showed big rises in Gisborne (40 per cent), Canterbury, Marlborough, Otago and Taranaki (between 21 and 23 per cent).
Stats NZ said the Ed Sheeran concerts likely contributed to the Otago result.