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International Travel and Migration: December 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  01 February 2016
Commentary

Highest-ever monthly visitor arrivals

Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 444,900 in December 2015, the highest-ever in a month. They were up 42,400 (11 percent) from December 2014.

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, December 2005 to 2015.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between December 2014 and 2015 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 11,000 to 36,700)
  • Australia (up 9,200 to 177,400)
  • the United Kingdom (up 3,800 to 37,600).

Visitors arriving from China were the highest-ever for a December month, almost twice as high as December 2013, and up 43 percent from December 2014.

December 2015 had the highest-ever visitor arrivals from Australia. Most visitors came from New South Wales (58,900), Queensland (48,300), and Victoria (39,800).  

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between December 2014 and 2015 were in arrivals for:

  • holidays (up 31,600 to 220,500)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 10,300 to 179,400).

More holiday arrivals from China (up 8,500) and Australia (up 6,600) were mainly responsible for the increase in holiday visitors. An increase in holidaymakers was also seen from the United States, Singapore, Japan, and Korea.

The change in visits to friends and relatives was driven by an increase in arrivals from the United Kingdom (up 2,500), Australia (up 2,500), and China (up 1,500).

Annual visitor arrivals continue to break records, reaching 3.13 million

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 3.13 million in the December 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. This was 10 percent higher than in the December 2014 year (up 274,500).

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between the years ended December 2014 and 2015 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 91,000 to 355,900)
  • Australia (up 79,000 to 1.33 million)
  • the United States (up 22,600 to 243,100).

Australia, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom (204,000) were New Zealand's biggest visitor sources, contributing 68 percent of all arrivals in the December 2015 year.

Holidays (1.56 million arrivals) were the most popular reason for visiting New Zealand in the December year. Visiting friends and relatives (951,400) was the second most common reason.

For more detailed data about visitor arrivals, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

New Zealand resident departures to Australia and United States set new December record

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 245,800 overseas trips in December 2015, up 6 percent from December 2014. Departures to Australia (106,100) and the United States (15,300) were the highest-ever for a December month. Together they made up 49 percent of all resident departures.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, December 2005 to 2015.   

Overseas trips by country of main destination

The biggest changes in overseas trips by country of main destination (where the person will spend most time) between December 2014 and 2015 were in trips to:

  • the United Kingdom (up 2,500 to 12,100)
  • China (up 1,900 to 12,200)
  • the United States (up 1,400 to 15,300).

Visiting friends and relatives was the reason for 54 percent of the overseas trips by New Zealand residents in December 2015, while 35 percent were for holidays, and 6 percent for business trips.

Annual New Zealand resident departures continue to grow

New Zealand residents departed on 2.41 million overseas trips in the December 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. This was up 135,300 (6 percent) from the December 2014 year.

The biggest changes in New Zealand resident departures by country of main destination between the years ended December 2014 and 2015 were in departures for:

  • Australia (up 45,700 to 1.14 million)
  • Fiji (up 15,900 to 146,000)
  • the United States (up 12,200 to 177,000)
  • the United Kingdom (up 10,700 to 112,100).

The number of annual trips to Australia was the highest-ever, accounting for 47 percent of all trips by New Zealand residents in the December 2015 year.

For more detailed data on overseas trips by New Zealand residents, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

Net gain in migration falls slightly in December 2015

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,500 migrants in December 2015, slightly lower than the all-time high of 6,200 in November 2015.

December 2015 had a seasonally adjusted net gain of 200 migrants from Australia, the ninth month in a row to show a net gain. Before April 2015, the last net gain in migrants from Australia had been over 20 years ago (in June 1991).

Graph, Seasonally adjusted monthly permanent and long-term migration, December 2005 to 2015.

Annual net gain of migrants continues to break record 

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 64,900 migrants in the December 2015 year. The annual gain in migrants has set new records for the last 17 months. Before the August 2014 year (43,500), the highest annual net gain in migrants was 42,500 in the May 2003 year.

Both more arrivals and fewer departures drove the increased net gain of migrants in the December 2015 year. Migrant arrivals (121,900) continued to reach a new high, up 12 percent from the December 2014 year. Migrant departures (57,000) were down 2 percent.

PLT migration by country of residence

The increase in migrant arrivals between the two December years was led by:

  • India (up 3,200 to 14,500)
  • Australia (up 2,000 to 25,300)
  • China (up 1,500 to 11,000)
  • the Philippines (up 1,500 to 5,400).

The increase in arrivals from Australia was for both New Zealand citizens and non-New Zealand citizens.

The fall in migrant departures was due to fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia. Departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia fell by 2,600 (11 percent) in the December 2015 year (to 21,100).

Annual net gains from Australia continued to increase with 800 migrants in the December 2015 year. This was the highest net gain since the October 1991 year and the third month in a row to show an annual net gain of migrants from Australia.

New Zealand recorded net gains of migrants from most other countries in the December 2015 year, led by:

  • India (13,300)
  • China (8,900)
  • the Philippines (5,100)
  • the United Kingdom (3,600).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by visa type between the December 2014 and 2015 years were:

  • student visas (up 5,000 to 27,900)
  • work visas (up 4,500 to 37,800)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 1,800 to 35,700).

Most of the student arrivals were from India (10,800), an increase of 28 percent from the December 2014 year. China (5,300), and the Philippines (2,100) were the next largest sources of student arrivals.

The biggest sources of migrants arriving on work visas in the December 2015 year were the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Germany. Arrivals on work visas increased 14 percent from the December 2014 year. Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

Another 14,100 migrants arrived on residence visas. Most migrants gain New Zealand residence after, rather than before, arrival. Many arrive on temporary visas (eg work, student) and transfer to a residence visa after spending time in New Zealand.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

All regions had a net gain of international migrants in the December 2015 year, led by Auckland (30,000), and Canterbury (6,800). The next-biggest net gains of migrants were in Waikato (2,600), Wellington (2,400), and Bay of Plenty (2,100).

The net gain in migration for the Auckland region was 7,000 higher in 2015 than 2014. The increase was driven by migrant arrivals into Auckland rising by 14 percent, coupled with a slight fall (3 percent) in departures compared with the December 2014 year. Just over half of all arrivals who stated an address on their arrival card indicated they would reside in Auckland. Of those who stated an address on their departure card, 42 percent were migrating from the Auckland region. In comparison, the Auckland region is home to 34 percent of New Zealand's population (at 30 June 2015). 

For more detailed data about permanent and long-term migration, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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