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A steady increase in the number of Chinese visitors offset a fall in overall tourist arrivals last month, compared to the spike in arrivals last year for the Rugby World Cup.
The number of short-term arrivals fell 15% to 184,200 in October from the same month in 2011, and was down 0.6% on an annual basis, Statistics New Zealand says.
The monthly slump was due to the country being flush with visitors for the showcase rugby event in October 2011, with the biggest declines coming from Australian, British and South African visitors.
Asian short-term arrivals were the only region to gain in the month, led by a 44% rise in Chinese visitors to 15,344. Chinese short-term arrivals were up 39% to 53,884 on an annual basis.
New Zealand's tourism has struggled to recover from the global financial crisis in 2008 as rising long-haul travel costs and a resiliently high local currency tarnished the appeal of the South Pacific as a destination.
The rise in Chinese tourist arrivals chimes with a report this week from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand predicting a structural shift in the composition of tourism arrivals.
"Traditional markets like the United Kingdom and United States will continue to decline in the absence of any active market intervention, but this will be off-set by strong growth from China and Australia," the report said.
"New Zealand will face continuing challenges as a destination for traditional markets, due to the global financial crisis and emergence of low-cost European airlines. The forecasts provide encouragement for New Zealand's tourism industry to do more to attract and cater for visitors from our Asia-Pacific neighbours."
Today's figures showed an increase in net long-term migration of 300, seasonally adjusted, with a net loss of 2300 on an annual basis.
The diaspora to Australia continued in October, with 3315 kiwis crossing the Tasman for a net outflow of departures versus arrivals from Australia of 2576. That took the annual number of departures to 48,657, with a net loss to Australia of 39,363.