March 26, 2023 4:12 pm

WELLINGTON, March 14 (Reuters) – When cruises began taking bookings at the finish of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians Eunice and John Rowley immediately created plans for their very first ever check out to New Zealand.

“We heard on the 9 o’clock news bulletin that they had been opening up cruises and by the afternoon we had two cruises booked,” mentioned Eunice, who is travelling with her husband on the Grand Princess about New Zealand.

“We’d never ever been to New Zealand, so we believed this is our chance.”

New Zealand’s international tourist sector disappeared overnight when the nation became 1 of the very first to seal its borders at the starting of the COVID outbreak in early 2020.

But because borders totally reopened in August, foreign vacationers have been producing their way back and are accountable for 1 of the most important vibrant spots for an economy battling headwinds as a doable recession looms.

International visitor numbers in January had been currently back to two-thirds of what they had been ahead of the pandemic started, according to the most recent information released on Tuesday by Statistics New Zealand.

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“It is been quite busy across our portfolio,” mentioned Stephen England-Hall, chief executive RealNZ, which operates a quantity of tourist activities in New Zealand’s South Island such as cruises and jet-boat rides.

He mentioned though not however back to 2019 levels, demand more than the New Zealand summer time had been substantially greater than they had anticipated, with independent travellers in distinct fuelling the recovery.

He mentioned arrivals at some airports had been truly greater than in 2019 but these great figures had been offset by fewer vacationers going to by auto, camper van and bus.

Ahead of the pandemic, tourism was New Zealand’s biggest supply of foreign exchange and accounted for about five.five% of gross domestic item (GDP).

The reviving sector is anticipated to have supported development in the quarter to December. The information is out on Thursday and is anticipated to show a .two% contraction in the fourth quarter.


Some tourism-connected industries have even been performing far better than ahead of the pandemic.

Meals and accommodation is up ten.three% on pre-pandemic levels, according to an evaluation of Statistics NZ GDP information for the September 2022 quarter by the Wellington-primarily based economics consultancy Infometrics.

Vacationers are possessing to devote extra due to the fact inflation in New Zealand is close to a 3-decade higher but Brad Olsen, principal economist at Infometrics, mentioned it was challenging to totally comprehend why the figure was up so substantially.

“Strong tourism activity is most likely to partially but not totally offset weaker building, retail, and manufacturing activity,” Olsen mentioned.

Even though tourist arrivals from the likes of Australia and the United States had been returning to typical levels, the numbers for quite a few markets, such as China, stay properly beneath pre-pandemic numbers.

China in January permitted group tours to 20 nations as it threw off its strict COVID policy, with New Zealand on this list along with Thailand and Russia.

The very first Chinese groups arrived in February.

“The recovery varies from market place to market place primarily based on airline connectivity and the late removal of COVID restrictions final year compared to other nations lifting travel restrictions earlier,” mentioned Tourism Export Council New Zealand chief executive Lynda Keene.

Larger numbers of Chinese guests are anticipated to commence displaying up in the February and March information, she mentioned.

“It’s encouraging to see we’re tracking in an upward path,” she mentioned.

Reporting by Lucy Craymer Editing by Robert Birsel

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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