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International Travel and Migration: March 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  23 April 2015
Commentary

March visitor arrivals boosted by cricket and holiday periods

Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 291,800 in March 2015, a record high for a March month. Visitor numbers were boosted by the Cricket World Cup, and the earlier timing of Easter and overseas school holidays compared with 2014. Although Good Friday fell on 3 April in 2015, travel generally increases several days before the start of holiday periods.

The latest visitor total was 15 percent higher than in March 2014 (253,600) and 8 percent higher than in March 2013 (270,700). Good Friday fell on 18 April 2014 and 29 March 2013, and school holidays in many countries are often timed to coincide with Easter.  

 Graph, monthly visitor arrivals, March 2005 to 2015.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

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

  • Australia (up 13,900)
  • China (up 7,700)
  • the United Kingdom (up 3,800)
  • India (up 1,700)
  • Japan (up 1,700).

Although visitor numbers from Australia and the United Kingdom were well up from March 2014, they were slightly below totals in March 2013. This was largely due to the timing of Easter and school holidays.

Arrivals from India were boosted by the Cricket World Cup held in New Zealand and Australia in February and March 2015. India played two matches in New Zealand during March. In addition, Australia and New Zealand offered joint visitor visas during the tournament, and some of those attending matches in Australia may have also taken the opportunity to visit New Zealand. 

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

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

  • holidays (up 20,600)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 13,000).

Australia and China contributed the biggest increases in holiday arrivals (up 5,200 and 5,100, respectively). Australia also contributed the biggest increase in visits to friends and relatives (up 6,500).

Annual visitor arrivals up 7 percent

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 2.95 million in the March 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. The latest figure was 7 percent higher than the March 2014 year (2.75 million).

The biggest annual increase in visitor arrivals was from China, up 55,800 from the March 2014 year. The next largest increases were from Australia (up 52,000), the United States (up 19,300), and Japan (up 10,000).

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

New Zealand residents travel more in March

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 168,200 overseas trips in March 2015, up 14 percent from March 2014 (148,000). The latest figure was influenced by the earlier timing of Easter and school holidays this year, and trips to watch New Zealand play in the Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne. The March 2015 figure was up 8 percent compared with March 2013 (155,900), when Easter fell in late March. 

Graph, monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, March 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 March 2014 and March 2015 were in trips to:

  • Australia (up 6,600)
  • the United States (up 3,100)
  • China (up 2,200)
  • India (up 1,400).

Of the New Zealand residents travelling to China in March 2015, 45 percent were Chinese citizens. Similarly, Indian citizens accounted for 44 percent of those departing to India. 

Annual trips by New Zealand residents up 5 percent

Trips by New Zealand residents in the March 2015 year (2.31 million) reached a record high, up 5 percent from the March 2014 year (2.20 million).

Around half of all trips by New Zealand residents in the March 2015 year were to Australia (1.10 million). The next most-visited destinations were the United States (170,200), Fiji (132,800), the United Kingdom (102,800), China (80,200), and the Cook Islands (76,900).

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

Net inflow of 5,000 migrants in March

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,000 migrants in March 2015. This is consistent with the average net gain since August 2014 (4,900). This apparent levelling of the net migration series comes after two years of increasing net gains, following net losses averaging 300 per month between March 2011 and August 2012.

The main contributors to the increased net gain of migrants since 2012 were fewer New Zealand citizens departing to Australia, and more non-New Zealand citizen arrivals. New Zealand citizen departures to Australia have shown little change in the last 12 months, while non-New Zealand citizen arrivals have shown little change in the last 6 months. 

Graph, seasonally adjusted monthly permanent and long-term migration, March 2005 to 2015.

Annual net gain of over 56,000 migrants

Unadjusted figures showed a net gain of 56,300 migrants in the March 2015 year, well above the net gains of 31,900 in the March 2014 year and 2,500 in the March 2013 year.

The increased net gain of migrants in the March 2015 year was driven by both more arrivals and fewer departures. Migrant arrivals reached a new high of 113,800, up 16 percent from the March 2014 year. Migrant departures numbered 57,500, down 13 percent.

PLT migration by country of residence

The increase in migrant arrivals between the March 2014 and March 2015 years was led by India (up 6,000), Australia (up 2,500), China (up 1,400), the Philippines (up 1,300), and France (up 1,100). The increase in arrivals from Australia included 1,800 more New Zealand citizens, and 700 more non-New Zealand citizens.

The fall in migrant departures was primarily due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia (down 7,700). Departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia have more than halved in the last two years from 46,600 in the March 2013 year to 22,600 in the March 2015 year.

The net loss of 2,300 people to Australia in the March 2015 year was well down from the net losses of 12,900 in the March 2014 year and 35,500 in the March 2013 year. The latest figure is the smallest net loss to Australia since the March 1992 year (also 2,300).

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

  • India (12,100)
  • China (7,700)
  • the United Kingdom (4,900)
  • the Philippines (4,000).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

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

  • student visas (up 8,700)
  • work visas (up 3,600)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 2,300).

Most of the increase in migrants arriving on student visas was from India (up 5,500), China (up 1,000), and the Philippines (up 500). Student arrivals accounted for about three-quarters of all migrants from India, and half of all migrants from China.

Increases in work visa arrivals were led by France (up 1,000) and the Philippines (up 600). The United Kingdom remains the biggest source of migrants on work visas. Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

All regions had a net gain of international migrants in the March 2015 year, led by Auckland (26,000), Canterbury (6,300), and Waikato (2,200).

Just over half of all migrants who stated an address on their arrival card were moving to the Auckland region (51 percent). 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 2014). 

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

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