Australian, Chinese visitors boost August tourist figures

BUSINESSDESK: New Zealand's short-term arrivals rose last month from a year earlier as more Australians and Chinese visitors trumped last year's pick-up from the Rugby World Cup.

Some 175,900 people came to New Zealand for a short-term visit in August, according to Statistics New Zealand. That is up 1% from August 2011, when visitor numbers were boosted by 4400 arrivals for the RWC.

On an annual basis, short-term visitors rose 5% to 2.6 million. Any inflation from last year's sporting event was offset by the Christchurch earthquake in February and disruption to air travel in June because of ash from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano, Statistics NZ says.

The annual increase was led by 25% gain in the number of Chinese visitors to 14,400. Tourists from Australia rose by 3% to 2800.

"More arrivals from Australia and China in August 2012 pushed visitor numbers even higher than in August 2011, when they were boosted by 4400 arrivals for the Rugby World Cup," population statistics manager Andrea Blackburn says.

"This August, more people from Australia visited friends and relatives, while more arrived from China for holidays."

Short-term arrivals from Malaysia and Britain fell, with the London Olympics in July and August affecting outbound travel from the UK.

New Zealand's tourism sector has been struggling since the global financial crisis in 2008, when financial markets collapsed and oil prices surged, causing widespread unemployment and eroding people's discretionary spending on long-haul travel.

New Zealanders continued to quit the country for Australia in June, with 3400 packing their bags to move across the ditch. Net outflows to Australia have remained relatively stable since March 2011, averaging around 3300 a month.

There was a net outflow of 340 migrants on a seasonally adjusted basis in August, with an annual outflow 4100.

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