NZ guest nights dropped in March as Easter holiday period falls in April

The data show guest nights in the North Island fell 1.3%, while South Island guest nights declined 5.4%.

New Zealand national guest nights dropped in March, as the busy Easter holiday period fell in April this year.

Total guest nights declined 3.1 percent to 3.87 million in March compared with the same month a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Domestic guest nights fell 5.6 percent to 2.03 million while international guest nights were unchanged at 1.84 million, the agency said.

Stats NZ noted that Easter fell in March last year, boosting the accommodation sector that month, however it fell in April this year, which weighed on the latest March figures.

The data show guest nights in the North Island fell 1.3 percent, while South Island guest nights declined 5.4 percent.

Overall, guest nights were lower in nine of the 12 regional areas in March compared with the year earlier month. Northland recorded the largest decline, with a 12 percent fall, followed by Canterbury which dropped 9.1 percent, partly driven by a 52 percent decline in Kaikoura due to the November 2016 earthquake. Wellington recorded the greatest percentage increase, up 2.6 percent.

Guest nights fell for three of four accommodation types in March. Holiday parks dropped 16 percent, motels fell 1.1 percent, and backpackers slid 0.2 percent. Hotels bucked the trend, up 2.8 percent.

The total available capacity for short-term commercial accommodation fell 0.5 percent in March, with all four accommodation types registering declines.

The occupancy rate increased for three of four accommodation types, with hotels up 3.7 percentage points to 80.5 percent, motels advancing 2.5 percentage points to 72.7 percent, and backpackers ahead 0.8 percentage points to 56.7 percent. Holiday parks fell 1.4 percentage points to 23.5 percent.

Tourism is the country's largest export earner, which has helped lift national guest nights 3.2 percent in the year to the end of March.