Tourist boom continues as visitor record set

Some of the nearly 3.5 million visitors to New Zealand last year take selfies and photographs on the shores of Lake Pukaki. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Some of the nearly 3.5 million visitors to New Zealand last year take selfies and photographs on the shores of Lake Pukaki. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
New Zealand tourism marked another record in the year ended December with the number of visitors climbing tantalisingly close to 3.5 million.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said there was a small dip of 1.3% from November but, so far, there was little sign of a slowdown in the tourism boom.

In addition, it appeared the November earthquake did not have a major impact on total tourist arrivals.

Arrivals were about 11% higher than in December 2015.

''Pleasingly, no single individual country or region is responsible for the continued growth in tourism, offering New Zealand a degree of protection from individual geopolitical events offshore.''

Australia made up about 40% of tourist arrivals on an annual basis, followed by China at 12%, the United Kingdom 8%, and the United States 8%.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan welcomed the increase in tourists but was worried New Zealand's infrastructure was starting to fray at the edges.

Rising numbers of visitors were competing with increased numbers of trucks on South Island roads, making for more dangerous driving conditions.

In Central Otago, the peak of the summer fruit harvest season meant a rise in workers and trucks on the road as the influx of tourists increased. Log trucks were increasing in numbers on Otago roads as harvesting continued. Local authorities needed to do more to ensure roads were safe for all users, he said.

It was not only Central Otago roads where visitors and locals alike were at risk. Infrastructure around the country was stretched as the Hawke's Bay water contamination crisis demonstrated.

Auckland was planning to spend about $2 billion on pipes to stop raw sewage pouring into the harbour, Mr McGowan said.

''This is another sign of local government under-investment in our infrastructure. More demand is going to place additional pressure on our services.''

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