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International Travel and Migration: January 2016
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  25 February 2016

Chinese New Year helps drive highest visitor arrivals for a January month

Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 343,400 in January 2016, the highest in a January month. They were up 41,000 (14 percent) from January 2015.

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, January 2006 to 2016.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between January 2015 and 2016 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 15,200 to 40,800)
  • the United States (up 4,400 to 29,000)
  • the United Kingdom (up 3,600 to 35,200)
  • Australia (up 3,300 to 122,600).

Visitors arriving from China were the highest for a January month, up 59 percent from January 2015. Most of the increase was over the last week of January, in the lead-up to the Chinese New Year – a popular time for travel. This year, Chinese New Year occurred in early February, compared with mid-February last year.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between January 2015 and 2016 were in arrivals for:

  • holidays (up 32,600 to 195,000)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 6,900 to 98,100).

More holiday arrivals from China (up 12,800) helped drive a 20 percent increase in holidaymakers. An increase in holidaymakers was also seen from Australia, the United States, Korea, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

The change in visits to friends and relatives was driven by an increase in arrivals from China (up 1,400), the United Kingdom (up 1,100), the United States (up 1,100), and Australia (up 1,000).

Annual visitor arrivals reach record 3.17 million

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 3.17 million in the January 2016 year, the highest-ever annual total. This was 11 percent higher than in the January 2015 year (up 305,600).

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between the years ended January 2015 and 2016 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 110,700 to 371,100)
  • Australia (up 72,500 to 1.33 million)
  • the United States (up 26,000 to 247,500).

Half of visitor arrivals in the January 2016 year were in New Zealand on holiday (1.60 million arrivals). Visiting friends and relatives (958,400) accounted for 30 percent of all visitor arrivals.

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

More New Zealand resident departures to Australia and China

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 145,700 overseas trips in January 2016, up 9 percent from January 2015. This was the highest number of departures for a January month.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, January 2006 to 2016.   

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 January 2015 and 2016 were in trips to:

  • Australia (up 3,000 to 70,400)
  • China (up 2,400 to 7,400)
  • Cook Islands (up 1,000 to 4,400).

Holidaying was the reason for 41 percent of the overseas trips by New Zealand residents in January 2016, while visiting friends and relatives was the reason for 39 percent of trips, and 12 percent for business trips.

Record-breaking run for annual New Zealand resident departures continues

New Zealand residents departed on 2.42 million overseas trips in the January 2016 year, the highest-ever annual total. This was up 141,300 (6 percent) from the January 2015 year.

The biggest changes in New Zealand resident departures by country of main destination between the years ended January 2015 and 2016 were in departures for:

  • Australia (up 47,400 to 1.14 million)
  • Fiji (up 15,100 to 146,600)
  • China (up 12,600 to 88,400)
  • the United Kingdom (up 10,100 to 112,100).
  • the United States (up 10,000 to 176,500)

The number of annual trips by New Zealand residents to Australia in the January 2016 year was the highest-ever, up 4 percent from the January 2015 year.

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

Net gain of 6,100 migrants in January 2016

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 6,100 migrants in January 2016, slightly higher than the average number of migrants per month in the last six months (5,900).

January 2016 had a seasonally adjusted net gain of 300 migrants from Australia, the 10th 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, January 2006 to 2016.

Annual net gain of migrants continues to rise 

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 65,900 migrants in the January 2016 year. The annual gain in migrants has set new records for the last 18 months. Before the August 2014 year (43,500), the highest annual net gain in migrants was 42,500 in the May 2003 year.

The increase in net gain of migrants in the January 2016 year was driven by migrant arrivals. Migrant arrivals (123,000) continued to reach new highs, up 10 percent from the January 2015 year. In comparison, migrant departures (57,100) were down just 1 percent.

PLT migration by country of residence

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

  • India (up 2,200 to 14,200)
  • Australia (up 2,000 to 25,700)
  • China (up 1,400 to 11,300)
  • the Philippines (up 1,400 to 5,400).

The increase in arrivals from Australia was for both New Zealand citizens and non-New Zealand citizens. The median age of migrants arriving from Australia was 28 years, compared with 25 years for all other migrant arrivals.

The fall in migrant departures was due to fewer New Zealanders leaving for Australia. Departures of New Zealanders to Australia fell by 2,100 (8 percent) in the January 2016 year (to 24,400). This was partly offset by 1,200 more departures to the United Kingdom (up 14 percent). 

Annual net gains from Australia continued to increase, reaching 1,300 migrants in the January 2016 year and breaking past the 1,000 mark for the first time since the October 1991 year. This is the fourth month in a row to show an annual net gain of migrants from Australia.

New Zealand also recorded net gains of migrants from most other countries in the January 2016 year, led by:

  • India (13,000)
  • China (9,100)
  • the Philippines (5,100)
  • the United Kingdom (3,700).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by visa type between the January 2015 and 2016 years were:

  • work visas (up 4,400 to 38,200)
  • student visas (up 4,000 to 27,900)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 2,000 to 36,200).

Migrants arriving on work visas in the January 2016 year made up 31 percent of all arrivals. These were mostly from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia. Arrivals on work visas increased 13 percent from the January 2015 year. Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

Most student arrivals were from India (10,600), up 17 percent from the January 2015 year. China (5,500) and the Philippines (2,200) were the next largest sources of student arrivals.

Migrants arriving on resident visas numbered 14,100. 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 January 2016 year, led by Auckland (30,400) and Canterbury (6,900). The next-biggest net gains of migrants were in Waikato (2,600), Wellington (2,500), and Bay of Plenty (2,200).

The Auckland region saw 51,800 migrant arrivals in the January 2016 year, up 12 percent from the previous 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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