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International Travel and Migration: March 2014
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  23 April 2014

Fewer visitors in March due to later holidays

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 253,600 in March 2014, down 6 percent from March 2013 (270,700). The later timing of Easter, and school holidays in some key source countries, contributed to the decrease.

Visitor arrivals during 1–20 March 2014 were up 4,000 from the same days in 2013. In contrast, arrivals during 21–31 March were down 21,200 from the previous year. Good Friday was on 29 March 2013, compared with 18 April 2014. 

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, March 2004 to 2014.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between March 2013 and March 2014 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 2,500)
  • the United States (up 2,300)
  • Hong Kong (down 1,600)
  • the United Kingdom (down 4,500)
  • Australia (down 15,400).

Visitor numbers from China increased for only the second time in six months, when compared with the same month of the previous year. The other increase was in January, due to the earlier timing of Chinese New Year. The decreases in recent months followed the introduction of a new tourism law in China, which increased the cost of overseas tours.

Visitor arrivals from the United States have increased in 13 of the last 15 months, with an average increase of 2,000 per month over this period.

The decreases from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong were related to the later timing of Easter and school holidays. School holidays in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and some Australian states are timed to coincide with Easter, and as a result started in April this year but March last year.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between March 2013 and March 2014 were in arrivals for:

  • business (up 4,200)
  • holidays (down 6,400)
  • visiting friends and relatives (down 14,800).

The later timing of Easter and school holidays influenced the changes in arrivals by travel purpose. Business trips are less common during such holiday periods, meaning fewer business travellers arrived in March 2013. Trips for a holiday or to visit friends and relatives tend to be more common during Easter and school holidays, explaining the higher numbers in March 2013 compared with March 2014.

Visitors from Australia contributed most of the change in the business (up 3,200), holiday (down 8,600), and visiting friends and relatives (down 9,200) categories between March 2013 and March 2014.

More visitors this year from Germany than from Japan

There were 2.75 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand in the March 2014 year. This was 5 percent higher than in the March 2013 year (2.61 million). 

Germany surpassed Japan to become the fifth-biggest source of visitors to New Zealand in the March 2014 year. The 74,200 arrivals from Germany was a record from that country, while the 73,300 arrivals from Japan was well down from a high of 174,800 in the January 2003 year. Japan was once New Zealand's second-biggest source of visitors (in 1996–1998) but is now sixth.

As well as the increase from Germany (up 9,400), more visitors arrived from Australia (up 50,400), China (up 29,500), the United States (up 19,600), and Singapore (up 6,300) compared with the March 2013 year.

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

Fewer trips by New Zealand residents in March due to Easter timing

New Zealand residents departed on 148,000 overseas trips in March 2014, down 5 percent from March 2013 (155,900). The later timing of Easter holidays affected the number of departures. The holidays started on 18 April 2014 compared with 29 March 2013.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, March 2004 to 2014.   

Overseas trips by country of main destination

A new departure card was introduced in July 2013, which improved the response rate to the 'country of main destination' question. As a result, the number of passengers in the 'not stated' category decreased by 12,000 (78 percent) in March 2014, compared with March 2013. The improved response rate contributed much of the change in the figures for individual countries.

Almost half of all trips by New Zealand residents this year were to Australia

Trips by New Zealand residents in the March 2014 year (2.20 million) were up 2 percent from the March 2013 year (2.16 million).

Around half of all trips by New Zealand residents in the March 2014 year were to Australia (1.03 million). The next most-visited destinations were the United States (146,100), Fiji (114,200), the United Kingdom (96,100), China (73,800), and the Cook Islands (73,700). 

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

Monthly net gain of migrants continues to increase

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 3,800 migrants in March 2014. This is the second-highest monthly figure on record. The highest net gain was in February 2003 (4,700), when a large number of overseas students arrived to study at New Zealand universities.

Net migration has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012. The increase since then was mainly due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia, as well as more non-New Zealand citizens arriving.

The seasonally adjusted net loss of 400 migrants to Australia in March 2014 was the lowest ever for this series, which began in January 1996. The highest net loss to Australia was 4,300 in February 2001, just before an immigration policy change that restricted access to welfare benefits for New Zealand citizens arriving after that date.

Graph, Monthly PLT arrivals, March 2009 to 2014.  Graph, Monthly PLT departures, March 2009 to 2014.

Annual net gain of migrants passes 30,000

Unadjusted figures showed 98,000 migrants arrived in the March 2014 year, up 14 percent from the March 2013 year (86,000). Migrant departures numbered 66,100, down 21 percent from the previous year (83,500). This resulted in a net gain of 31,900 migrants in the March 2014 year, compared with a net gain of just 2,500 in the March 2013 year. The latest net gain was the highest annual gain since the January 2004 year (33,300).

Net migration can vary significantly from year to year. The highest net inflow ever recorded was 42,500 in the May 2003 year. The highest net outflow was 43,600 in the July 1979 year. Over the last 20 years (December 1994–2013 years), New Zealand's annual net inflow of migrants has averaged 11,700.

The net loss of 12,900 people to Australia in the March 2014 year was well down from the loss of 35,500 in the March 2013 year. The latest year's loss resulted from 34,000 departures to Australia (down from 51,300 in the March 2013 year), partly offset by 21,100 arrivals (up from 15,800). In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

New Zealand recorded net gains of migrants from most other countries in the March 2014 year, led by:

  • China (6,200)
  • India (6,100)
  • the United Kingdom (5,800)
  • the Philippines (2,600)
  • Germany (2,300)
  • France (1,800).

Within New Zealand, 11 out of 16 regions had a net gain of international migrants, led by Auckland (14,800), Canterbury (5,200), Otago (700), and Wellington (600).

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

Changes to Provisional international travel statistics and International Visitor Arrivals to New Zealand

The following changes to the Provisional international travel statistics took effect from 21 March 2014:

  • The Provisional international travel statistics are usually released each Friday after 2pm, rather than 3pm.
  • A new one-page summary Excel file, 'Overview of latest international travel trends' is available.
  • You can subscribe on the Statistics NZ subscription page to receive email notifications after the latest Provisional international travel statistics are released.

You can also now subscribe to receive the International Visitor Arrivals to New Zealand report in your inbox. This report is released two working days after each International Travel and Migration information release and contains detailed tables about the number and characteristics of visitor arrivals.

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