National guest nights continue to push higher in December

South island results affected by Kaikoura earthquake.

National guest nights continued to push higher in December, driven by an increase in international guest nights, Statistics New Zealand's December accommodation survey results showed.

Overall national guest nights for December 2016 were 3.4 percent higher than in December 2015, bolstered by a 7.5 percent rise in international guest nights and a 0.3 percent increase in domestic guest nights. International guest nights have risen through the past three years as New Zealand enjoys record tourism levels. Earlier data from the statistics agency showed short-term visitor arrivals, which include tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.54 million in the year ended January 31, up 11 percent from a year earlier.

The data tallies with official figures for short-term visitor arrivals, which include tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, and reached a record 3.54 million in the 12 months ended January 31, breaking 2016 records. Visitors from Australia rose 6.3 percent to 1.4 million while those from China climbed 14 percent to 422,256.

According to Statistics NZ, guest nights in December 2016 were the highest for any December month, with record December levels recorded for both main islands, domestic and international guest nights, and most accommodation types. North Island guest nights drove growth, up 5.3 percent versus the same month a year ago while South Island guest nights lifted 0.9 percent. Guest nights rose in 11 of the 12 regional areas in December versus December 2015. Only Canterbury showed a decline, which was mainly related to the November 14 earthquake in Kaikoura. The largest increases in guest nights were in Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki/Manawatu/Wanganui, Statistics NZ said.

Guest nights rose on the year for three of four accommodation types in December. Hotels were up 2.3 percent, motels were up 5.0 percent, holiday parks were up 4.8 percent while backpackers were down 0.3 percent. In December, some 651,000 of the 1.8 million nights spent in New Zealand by international visitors were spent in hotels, a rise of 7.7 percent on the year. Nights spent in motels jumped 19.6 percent.

In calendar 2016, national guest nights were up 6.2 percent versus 2015.

The December data was delayed from its scheduled February 10 date due to the November 14 earthquake in Kaikoura. The January accommodation survey will be released on March 20.