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International Travel and Migration: January 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  26 February 2015

Increase in January visitor numbers driven by arrivals from Australia

Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 302,400 in January 2015, the highest-ever January total. This was up 3 percent from January 2014 (292,400).

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, January 2005 to 2015.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

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

  • Australia (up 9,800)
  • Korea (up 2,000)
  • the United States (up 1,100)
  • Hong Kong (down 1,100)
  • China (down 4,400).

Arrivals from China numbered 25,700 in January 2015, down 15 percent from January 2014. This was driven by a change in timing of the Chinese New Year, a popular time for travel, from January in 2014 to February in 2015. The fall in arrivals from Hong Kong (down 37 percent to 1,900) can also be attributed to the change in timing of the Chinese New Year. In contrast, arrivals from Taiwan which are usually affected by the Chinese New Year timing, were up 31 percent compared with January 2014, helped by new flights from Taipei to Christchurch via Sydney.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

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

  • holidays (up 5,600)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 1,300)
  • business (up 1,200).

Australia contributed the biggest increases in arrivals for holidays (up 5,100), visits to friends and relatives (up 2,300), and business travel (up 1,400). The change in timing of Chinese New Year caused the number of holiday arrivals from China and Hong Kong both to decrease (down 4,400 and 1,000 respectively).

Annual visitor numbers up 4 percent 

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 2.87 million in the January 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. The latest figure was 4 percent higher than in the January 2014 year (2.75 million).

Similar to the January 2015 month, the biggest annual increase in visitor arrivals, compared with the January 2014 year, was from Australia (up 31,100). The second largest increase was in arrivals from the United States (up 20,900). In spite of the change in timing of Chinese New Year affecting visitor arrivals in January, China still had the third largest increase of annual arrivals (up 20,100).

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

New Zealand residents travel more to the United States in January

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 133,800 overseas trips in January 2015, up 5 percent from January 2014 (127,800).

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, January 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 the most time) between January 2014 and January 2015 were in trips to:

  • the United States (up 1,700)
  • Fiji (up 1,400)
  • Australia (up 1,300)
  • China (down 1,100).

The fall in trips by New Zealand residents to China can also be attributed to the change in timing of Chinese New Year, as more people delay travel to China, to coincide with New Year celebrations.

Annual trips abroad by New Zealand residents up 4 percent

Trips by New Zealand residents in the January 2015 year (2.28 million) were up 4 percent from the January 2014 year (2.20 million).

Around half of all trips by New Zealand residents in the January 2015 year were to Australia (1.09 million). The next most-visited destinations were the United States (166,500), Fiji (131,500), the United Kingdom (102,000), the Cook Islands (76,500), and China (75,800).

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

Net inflow of migrants reaches new peak in January

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,500 migrants in January 2015. This followed small decreases in net migration in the previous two months. The latest net gain in migration set a new all-time high that surpassed the October 2014 peak of 5,200. This is the third time in the last six months that the previous record net gain of migrants (4,700 in February 2003) has been surpassed.

The higher figure in January 2015, compared with December 2014, was due to greater arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens.

The seasonally adjusted net loss of 100 migrants to Australia in January 2015 was smaller than the loss of 800 in January 2014. The highest-ever net loss to Australia (4,300) was in February 2001, just before an immigration policy change that restricted access to welfare benefits for New Zealand citizens arriving after that date.

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

India top source of annual net gain of migrants

Unadjusted figures showed a net gain of 53,800 migrants in the January 2015 year, a significant increase on the net gain of 25,700 in the January 2014 year. This was the sixth month in a row that the annual record for a net gain of migrants has been broken, all surpassing the previous high in the May 2003 year (42,500).

The increased net gain of migrants in the January 2015 year was driven by both more arrivals and fewer departures. Migrant arrivals reached a new high of 111,500, up 17 percent from the January 2014 year (95,200). Migrant departures numbered 57,700, down 17 percent from the January 2014 year (69,500). This is the lowest migrant departures have been since the November 2003 year (56,700).

PLT migration by country of residence

The increase in migrant arrivals between the January 2014 and January 2015 years was led by India (up 5,100), Australia (up 3,500), China (up 1,700), and the Philippines (up 1,300). The increase in arrivals from Australia included 2,600 more New Zealand citizens, and 900 more non-New Zealand citizens.

The fall in migrant departures was primarily due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia (down 10,200). Departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia have more than halved in the last two years from 48,300 in the January 2013 year to 23,100 in the January 2015 year.

The net loss of 2,900 people to Australia in the January 2015 year was well down from the net losses of 17,100 in the January 2014 year and 37,900 in the January 2013 year. The latest figure is the smallest net loss to Australia since the June 1992 year (2,800).

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

  • India (10,800)
  • China (7,600)
  • the United Kingdom (5,100)
  • the Philippines (3,800).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

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

  • student visas (up 8,200)
  • work visas (up 3,500)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 2,900).

Most of the increase in migrants arriving on student visas was from India (up 4,800) and China (up 1,100). Migrants arriving from India have been New Zealand's biggest source of PLT arrivals on student visas since the January 2008 year. Before then, China was the biggest source of PLT migrants on student visas.

Increases in work visa arrivals were led by France (up 1,000) and the Philippines (up 600). Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

Nearly all regions had a net gain of migrants in the January 2015 year, led by Auckland (24,600), Canterbury (6,200), and Waikato (2,000). The increased net gain of migrants in Auckland and Canterbury was mainly because of more arrivals (up 7,800 and 1,300 respectively). In contrast, the increased net gain in Waikato was driven by fewer departures (down 1,400).

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

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