Newly reworked tourist spending data shows that friends and family visiting from other countries spend far more than previous surveys have identified, although tourism spending shows an overall downward trend in the last decade.
The newly constituted International Visitor Survey is New Zealand’s primary measures of tourism spending and behaviour, and a complete revision of data collection methods has revealed the actual spending by visiting friends and relatives has been underreported by about 88 percent in the past.
The effect of that finding accounts for the maintenance of actual tourism spending of around $6.5 billion a year since 2010 in actual rather than inflation-adjusted term, following a steep fall in spend after the global financial crisis.
The new data also retroactively excludes spending by international students studying in New Zealand, since they are not classified as tourists.
The revisions show the biggest increases in surveyed spending comes from short term visitors from Australia and Britain, although the trends for Britain also show a steady decline in total tourism spending since 2005, reflecting tougher economic times and the greater lure of a wider range of closer holiday destinations.
Spending by tourist visitors was also found to have been under-reported by about 23 percent in the past.
Meanwhile, figures adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors suggest tourism spending could be on the rise again, with a sharp uptick in the otherwise declining trend in the figures so far for 2013.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials at a briefing on the new statistical series said that could be consistent with predictions of an upturn for New Zealand tourism this year.
However, regional tourism spend estimates show relatively few regions experiencing significant growth, with Auckland and Wellington showing no growth since last year, although both Canterbury and Otago are recorded as growing around 10 percent from last year.