NZ guest nights hit new record in September as Key says sector 'squeezed' by tourist demand

National guest nights jumped 6.4% to 2.63 million in September compared with the same month last year

In a week when Prime Minister John Key warned the country's hotel accommodation is "getting squeezed" from record tourism levels, the latest data shows guest night records are continuing to be broken.

National guest nights jumped 6.4% to 2.63 million in September compared with the same month last year, Statistics New Zealand said today. That's the highest level ever recorded for the month, with records hit for both main islands, domestic and international guest nights, and all accommodation types, the agency said.

More than two-thirds of the rise in the latest figures was due to foreign visitors, Statistics NZ business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said.

The country's accommodation sector is buoyant, helped by record levels of tourism and migration. The government is encouraging investment into new hotels through its "project palace" initiative which helps identify opportunities for investors, amid concerns about a looming shortage of beds during peak periods. Mr Key, who is also tourism minister, told an industry conference yesterday that his staff are finding it "incredibly difficult" to find a hotel room in Auckland when they accompany him for work and New Zealand risks running out of accommodation space in summer if it isn't careful.

About 23% of New Zealand's international visitors typically arrive during the three months of spring, according to data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. That compares with about 35% in the peak summer season.

International guest nights rose 12% to 997,000 in September, while domestic guest nights advanced 3% to 1.64 million. Guest nights spent in the North Island increased 6.6% to 1.64 million as South Island guest nights advanced 6% to 990,000.

All 12 regional areas experienced a lift in guest nights, led by Hawke's Bay/Gisborne, where guest nights increased 19% to 86,000. Auckland remained the most popular region with 575,000 guest nights in the month, followed by Otago with 402,000.

All four accommodation types had more guest nights in the month compared with the year earlier, with holiday park nights up 11%, motels ahead 7.9%, hotels up 4.4%, and backpacker nights up 3.9%.