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International Travel and Migration: February 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 March 2012

Fewer February visitor arrivals despite leap day

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 259,100 in February 2012, down 3 percent from February 2011 (268,300). The decrease was despite February 2012 having an extra day (29 February).

Graph, monthly visitor arrivals, February 2002 to 2012.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between February 2011 and February 2012 were in arrivals from:

  • Australia (up 2,000)
  • Hong Kong (down 1,100)
  • Japan (down 2,300)
  • China (down 2,700) 
  • the United Kingdom (down 4,200).

The increase in visitors from Australia in February 2012 was due to more arrivals by Australia-based New Zealand citizens (up 2,500). 

There were fewer arrivals from Hong Kong and China because the popular Chinese New Year travel period fell in January in 2012 compared with February in 2011. Combining January and February 2012, arrivals from China were up 6,100 and arrivals from Hong Kong were down 100 compared with the same months of 2011.

Arrivals from Japan have been decreasing in most months since the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Visits from Japan were further affected after that country experienced its own devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom have decreased in most months since April 2007, just after the start of the global economic downturn. The 32,200 visitors from the United Kingdom in February 2012 were well down from the February month high of 50,000 in 2008. 

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between February 2011 and February 2012 were in arrivals for:

  • visiting friends and relatives (up 2,600)
  • education (down 1,100)
  • conferences and conventions (down 1,500)
  • business (down 1,800)
  • holidays (down 7,700).

More people arrived from Australia to visit friends and family (up 3,200) and for a holiday (up 1,200) than in February 2011. However, there were fewer arrivals from Australia for conferences and conventions (down 1,500) and business (down 1,400). 

There were fewer holiday visitors from the United Kingdom (down 3,400), China (down 2,800), Japan (down 1,900), and the United States (down 1,100).      

Annual visitor arrivals rise 2 percent

There were 2.594 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand in the February 2012 year. This was up 2 percent from the February 2011 year (2.534 million). 

A number of major events affected visitor arrivals in the February 2012 year, including the Canterbury earthquakes, flight disruptions due to volcanic ash, and the Rugby World Cup. The Rugby World Cup attracted 133,200 overseas visitors between July and October 2011.

By country, the biggest increases in the February 2012 year were from Australia (up 36,000), China (up 22,700), and Malaysia (up 14,700). The 67 percent increase from Malaysia was mainly due to new Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch flights, which are to stop at the end of May 2012.   

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

Large increase in overseas trips by New Zealand residents in February

New Zealand residents departed on 12 percent more overseas trips in February 2012 (116,400) than in February 2011 (103,500). The latest figure was the highest for a February month, surpassing the 107,900 departures in February 2008 – which also contained a leap day.

  Graph, monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, February 2002 to 2012.

Overseas trips by country of main destination

The biggest changes in overseas trips by country of main destination (where the person will spend the most time when overseas) between February 2011 and February 2012 were in trips to:

  • Australia (up 6,900)
  • the United States (up 1,300).

The increase in trips to Australia included 2,500 more holiday trips, 2,100 more trips to visit friends and relatives, and 1,500 more business trips.  

Annual overseas trips by New Zealand residents increase by 4 percent

Trips taken by New Zealand residents in the February 2012 year (2.117 million) were up 4 percent from the February 2011 year (2.037 million).

Australia was easily the most common destination, accounting for almost half of all overseas trips by New Zealand residents. The 985,000 trips to Australia in the February 2012 year increased from 978,100 trips in the February 2011 year.

After Australia, the most common destinations in the February 2012 year were the United States (106,900), Fiji (102,300), the United Kingdom (93,600), China (69,100), and the Cook Islands (66,600). There were more trips to each of these destinations compared with the February 2011 year.

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

Net loss of migrants continues in February

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net loss (an excess of departures over arrivals) of 400 migrants in February 2012. Since the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand has had a net loss of migrants in all months except August 2011.

Graph, monthly PLT arrivals, February 2007 to 2012.  Graph, monthly PLT departures, February 2007 to 2012.

Unadjusted figures showed a net inflow of 1,200 migrants in February 2012, compared with an inflow of 2,200 in February 2011. The main changes were:

  • 1,200 more departures of New Zealand citizens, including 1,000 more to Australia
  • 300 more arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens on work visas.

In February 2012 compared with February 2011, there was a net gain of migrants from the following countries:

  • 1,000 from India, up from 900 
  • 900 from China, up from 800
  • 400 from the United Kingdom, down from 500
  • 300 from Malaysia, down from 500.

There was a net loss of 4,100 migrants to Australia, up from a loss of 3,000 in February 2011. The highest-ever monthly net loss to Australia was 5,000 in February 2001. 

Net loss of 4,100 migrants in February 2012 year

There were 83,900 PLT arrivals in the February 2012 year, an increase of 1 percent from the February 2011 year. The 88,000 PLT departures was up 18 percent from the previous year. The net result was a loss of 4,100 migrants in the February 2012 year.

This net loss is the largest since the August 2001 year (4,400). New Zealand has experienced numerous periods of negative net migration. The highest net loss since the PLT migration series started (in April 1921) was 43,600 people in the July 1979 year.

New Zealand's net loss of migrants in the February 2012 year was due to a highest-ever net loss of 39,100 people to Australia. The annual figure resulted from 53,000 departures to Australia (also a record), offset by 13,900 arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

There were net gains of migrants from most other countries, led by the United Kingdom (5,300), India (5,000), and China (4,800) in the February 2012 year.

Auckland was the only region to record a net gain of international migrants in the February 2012 year (5,400). The biggest net loss was from the Canterbury region (3,700). Within Canterbury, most of the net loss in international migrants was from Christchurch city (2,900), as more residents departed and fewer arrived after the devastating earthquake on 22 February 2011. Christchurch's net loss of international migrants in the February 2012 year compares with a net gain of 900 migrants in the February 2011 year. In the February 2012 year, 8,300 Christchurch residents moved overseas, up from 5,800 in the February 2011 year. Arrivals from overseas into Christchurch numbered 5,500 in the February 2012 year, down from 6,700 the previous year.  

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

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