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International Travel and Migration: February 2013
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  22 March 2013
Commentary

Highest ever visitor arrivals for a February month

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 281,200 in February 2013. This was the highest ever number of visitors for a February month, up 9 percent from February 2012 (259,100) and up 5 percent from February 2011 (268,300).

Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, February 2003 to February 2013.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between February 2012 and February 2013 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 16,300)
  • Hong Kong (up 2,200) 
  • the United States (up 2,200)
  • Taiwan (up 1,600)
  • Japan (up 1,400)
  • the United Kingdom (down 1,000)
  • Korea (down 1,600).

Visitor arrivals from China numbered 31,500 in February 2013, more than twice the February 2012 figure (15,300). The 3,800 visitor arrivals from Hong Kong in February 2013 were also well above the 1,500 arrivals from that country in February 2012. Visitor arrivals from both China and Hong Kong generally increase around the Chinese New Year holiday. The increase from Taiwan was also influenced by the timing of Chinese New Year. This year, Chinese New Year was on 10 February, whereas in 2012 it fell on 23 January.

Visitor arrivals from the United States numbered 26,900 in February 2013 – the highest for a February month since 2008 (31,100), and an increase of 9 percent from the February 2012 figure (24,700). Most of this increase came from cruise ship passengers. The number of cruise ship passengers arriving from the United States in February 2013 (3,100) was up 1,600 from February 2012.

From within Australia, there were more visitors from Western Australia (up 800) and Victoria (up 600) but fewer from New South Wales (down 900).  

The number of visitors from the United Kingdom (31,200) was down 3 percent from the previous year. Arrivals from the United Kingdom have decreased in most months since April 2007, just after the start of the global economic downturn.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between February 2012 and February 2013 were in arrivals for:

  • holidays (up 21,600)
  • visiting friends and relatives (down 2,200).   

The rise in the number of holidays was mainly driven by increases from China (up 14,400), the United States (up 3,100), Hong Kong (up 1,900), and Taiwan (up 1,300).

The fall in arrivals to visit friends and relatives was a result of decreases from countries including Australia (down 1,600) and the United Kingdom (down 1,200), countered by more trips from China (up 1,600). 

More annual visitor arrivals from China, fewer from the UK

There were 2.581 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand in the February 2013 year. This was down 1 percent from the February 2012 year (2.594 million), which was boosted by visitor arrivals for the Rugby World Cup. However, the 2013 figure was up 2 percent compared with the February 2011 year. 

Annual visitor arrivals from China were up 38 percent (57,100) from the February 2012 year, surpassing 200,000 annual visitor arrivals for the first time. There has been an overall increase in international outbound travel from China in recent years. Visitor arrivals from Japan are recovering (up 10,400). However, the 74,100 visitor arrivals from Japan in the February 2013 year were still well down on the 89,100 visitors in the February 2011 year, before the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.   

The increases from China and Japan were countered by fewer visitor arrivals from the United Kingdom (down 35,400), due to the global economic downturn. Visitors from the United Kingdom had a median length of stay of 20 days in the February 2013 year, compared with four days for Chinese visitors.

Fewer visitor arrivals from France (down 11,800) and South Africa (down 9,900) followed increases the previous year during the Rugby World Cup.

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

Fewer residents depart for overseas trips in February

New Zealand residents departed on 110,700 overseas trips in February 2013, down 5 percent from February 2012 (116,400), but 7 percent higher than February 2011 (103,500).

  Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, February 2003 to February 2013.

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) between February 2012 and February 2013 were in trips to:

  • China (up 900) 
  • India (down 700)  
  • Australia (down 3,600). 

New Zealand residents take more overseas trips in the year

Trips by New Zealand residents in the February 2013 year (2.155 million) rose 2 percent from the February 2012 year (2.117 million).

The biggest increase was in trips to the United States (up 15,100). Over recent decades, changes in the number of trips to the United States have followed changes in the exchange rate.

In the February 2013 year, residents also made more trips to the Cook Islands (up 5,600), Japan (up 4,400), Thailand (up 4,300), and Samoa (up 3,400).

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

Net gain of 600 migrants in February 

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 600 migrants in February 2013. While net migration has fluctuated between gains and losses over the past year, there was an average gain of 100 migrants per month.

Graph, Monthly PLT arrivals, February 2008 to February 2013.  Graph, Monthly PLT departures, February 2008 to February 2013.

The seasonally adjusted net loss of 2,400 migrants to Australia in February 2013 was the smallest net loss since January 2011 (2,300). Since the start of the series in 1996, the highest-ever net loss to Australia was 4,300 in February 2001. This was just before the eligibility of New Zealand citizens to access certain welfare benefits in Australia was changed on 26 February 2001.

Net migration gain for the year

Unadjusted figures showed there were 85,600 PLT arrivals in the February 2013 year, 2 percent more than the 83,900 migrants in the February 2012 year. PLT departures numbered 84,400, down 4 percent from the previous year (88,000). This resulted in a net migration gain of 1,200 in the February 2013 year, following annual net losses in the period from the October 2011 year to the December 2012 year.

Auckland, Canterbury, and Otago were the only regions to gain migrants, with arrivals outnumbering departures by 3,900, 1,200, and 100 respectively. Following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, departures from Canterbury increased, and arrivals decreased. In the last few months, the number of arrivals and departures have returned to pre-quake levels, and there has been a net inflow of migrants to Canterbury. In the February 2013 year, Canterbury had a net gain of 400 technicians and trade workers, whereas in 2011 and 2012 there were net losses. This net gain is mostly construction workers (300) – a direct result of rebuilding in Christchurch. 

There was a net loss of 36,700 people to Australia in the February 2013 year, down from a net loss of 39,100 in the February 2012 year. The smaller net loss resulted from 52,100 departures to Australia (down 900), offset by 15,400 arrivals from Australia (up 1,500). In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

There were net gains of migrants from most other countries in the February 2013 year, led by:

  • the United Kingdom (5,900)
  • China (5,400)
  • India (4,900)
  • the Philippines (2,000)
  • Germany (1,700)
  • Ireland (1,200). 

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

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