Timing of Easter affects tourism

A later Easter this year caused a fall in tourist numbers in March, Statistics New Zealand figures released yesterday show.

Short-term visitor arrivals fell by 3% in March compared to February but were still at a strong overall level, ASB economist Daniel Smith said.

March arrivals were down around 6% from March 2013 levels but that was because Easter fell in March last year and April this year.

''In particular, the timing of Easter, and related school holidays, may have affected arrivals from Australia, which drove most of the monthly decline.''

On the positive side, arrivals from China continued to recover following a law change in late 2013. The other success story was visitor numbers from the United States, which rose another 4.6% in March to be up 10% annually.

''Overall, continued growth in Chinese visitor numbers and economic recovery in more traditional markets, such as the US and United Kingdom, should drive more strong arrivals numbers over 2014.''

Tourism New Zealand corporate affairs general manager Chris Roberts said Germany had overtaken Japan to become New Zealand's fifth-largest visitor market.

Total arrivals from Germany were up 14.5% for the year to 74,224 - the highest recorded for a 12-month period and a 6.4% rise in the March month.

''The strong growth we are seeing from Germany is fantastic for both the tourism industry and the New Zealand economy.''

German holidaymakers stayed an average of 24 days and injected significant value into the economy during their visit. The growth from the key traditional market in the past 12 months had seen the arrival of thousands of additional German holidaymakers, who stayed longer, travelled more widely and spent more.

Interest in New Zealand from the UK had surged following the recent royal visit and potential travellers were keen to experience similar experiences to the Royal Family, he said.

At the end of the tour, there was a 15% increase in UK visits to the newzealand.com website and a 10% increase in US visits.

US visitor numbers continued to grow and holiday arrivals were up 11.1% in March.

''Interestingly, over half of the growth seen from the US has arrived in New Zealand via Hawaii, reiterating the importance of supporting new airlines, such as Hawaiian, which has been operating non-stop services since March 2013.''

Total arrivals from Japan were down 10% for the month and 2.8% for the year ending March, Mr Roberts said, as the result of reduced airline capacity over the 2014 summer season.

Growth in other markets across Asia during March included China up 11.9%, Singapore up 10.8% and Korea up 2.2%. Arrivals from India, up 24% in March, and Indonesia, up 41.2%, were also strong.

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