Guest nights hit new record in January

New Zealand accommodation providers hosted a record number of guests in January, as a surge in international visitors during the summer months offset a decline in local stays, the latest data shows.

National guest nights increased 1.1 percent to 4.9 million in January compared with the same month a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. International guest nights jumped 6.9% to a record 2.1 million, while domestic guest nights fell 2.7% to 2.8 million as more Kiwis travelled overseas, the agency said.

Record levels of tourism and migration are stoking the country's accommodation sector. The government's tourism marketing body, Tourism New Zealand, has stopped advertising the country as a destination during the peak summer months amid concerns the country's infrastructure is reaching capacity. About 35% of New Zealand's international visitors typically arrive during the three months of summer, and the government is encouraging investment into new hotels through its "project palace" initiative which helps identify opportunities for investors, with concerns about a looming shortage of beds during peak periods.

The latest data shows nine of New Zealand's 12 regional areas had more guest nights in January. The Hawke's Bay-Gisborne region had the biggest increase, with a 9.9% rise in guest nights. Guest nights fell in Auckland and Wellington regions as lower domestic guest nights offset an increase in international guest nights. Guest nights in Canterbury declined due to a 61% fall in Kaikoura guest nights following the November earthquakes, Stats NZ said.

Guest nights rose for three of four accommodation types in January. Motels were up 2.1%, holiday parks were up 2.7% while backpackers were up 1.4%. Hotel nights bucked the trend, down 1.7%.

The total available capacity fell across all four accommodation types in January. The occupancy rate rose for motels, backpackers and holiday parks but fell for hotels. Occupancy rates normally peak in summer and trough in winter.