More Americans on cruise ships but still a slide in short-term arrivals

A jump in Americans arriving in New Zealand on cruise ships failed to arrest a 2.3 percent overall decline in the number of short-term visitors last month, with Chinese tourists tumbling by a fifth.

Some 260,600 tourists visited New Zealand in January for a short-term stay, down from 266,800 a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand. The decline came from a 20 percent slide in the number of Chinese visitors to 18,800 and a 7.9 percent fall in the number of Brits to 27,500.

Short-term visitor arrivals rose 2.7 percent to 2.16 million in the 12 months ended January 31.

The number of Americans climbed 17 percent to 24,300, the most for a January month since 2008. That was led by an 85 percent spike in cruise passengers, or 1700 people, from a year earlier. Australian tourists increased 2.2 percent to 99,000 from January 2012.

"Chinese people generally travel more around the Chinese New Year holiday, so we had fewer visitors from China and Hong Kong this January," population statistics project manager Deb Potter says. "An increase in visitors from the United States and Australia partially compensated for this drop."

Chinese tourists have been the saving grace of an industry struggling with a strong exchange rate and high costs of long-haul flights in recent years. Total spend by international arrivals fell six per cent to $5.42 billion in the 2012 calendar year, coming down from a spike in 2011 from the Rugby World Cup.

Today's figures showed a seasonally adjusted net gain of 350 long-term and permanent migrants in January, and breaking even on an annual basis. Statistics NZ says Auckland and Christchurch are the only regions to gain migrants.

Australia continued to attract New Zealanders across the Tasman, with a seasonally adjusted net outflow of 2600 in January, the smallest loss since February 2011. Some 37,900 more people moved to Australia in the year ended January 31.


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