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International Travel and Migration: March 2016
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 April 2016

Easter holidaymakers help drive record visitor arrivals for a March month

Visitor arrivals numbered 344,400 in March 2016, with an earlier Easter break helping produce a new March record. Easter was in March in 2016, compared with April in 2015. Visitor arrivals were up 52,600 (18 percent) from March 2015, driven by holiday arrivals. 

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, March 2006 to 2016.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

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

  • Australia (up 19,900 to 133,300)
  • China (up 9,600 to 40,400)
  • the United States (up 5,900 to 32,800)
  • the United Kingdom (up 2,500 to 25,000)
  • Argentina (up 2,000 to 2,400)
  • Hong Kong (up 1,700 to 5,200).

Earlier school holidays in Queensland and Victoria, scheduled to coincide with Easter, drove an 18 percent rise in arrivals from Australia in March 2016 compared with March 2015.

More visitor arrivals from Shanghai, Beijing, and Zhejiang contributed to the rise in visitor arrivals from China.

The increase in visitor arrivals from Argentina follows the introduction of direct flights between Buenos Aires and Auckland in December 2015.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

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

  • holidays (up 38,300 to 183,600)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 15,100 to 101,400)
  • business (down 2,300 to 26,100).

Visitors from Australia were the main contributor to the biggest changes in travel purpose. In particular, visitors from Australia dominated the rise in visits to friends and relatives, and a fall in business-related arrivals.

The increases in visitor arrivals from China and the United States were mainly due to arrivals for holidays.

Annual visitor arrivals now 3.26 million

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 3.26 million in the March 2016 year, again breaking the annual record. This was 10 percent higher than the March 2015 year (up 307,600).

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

  • Australia (up 91,600 to 1.36 million)
  • China (up 82,300 to 377,800)
  • the United States (up 26,800 to 253,800).

Just over half of the visitors that arrived in the March 2016 year were in New Zealand on holiday (1.65 million arrivals), with one-third of all holidaymakers coming from Australia.

Visiting friends and relatives (980,800) accounted for 30 percent of all visitor arrivals, while business visits (276,800) made up 9 percent of visitor arrivals.

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

New record for New Zealand-resident departures in March

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 172,800 overseas trips in March 2016, up 3 percent from March 2015. The earlier timing of Easter in 2016 compared with 2015 helped set a new record for a March month.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, March 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 March 2015 and 2016 were in trips to:

  • Fiji (up 3,200 to 9,700)
  • Australia (up 1,700 to 91,600)
  • the United States (down 1,800 to 8,700).

The increase in trips to Fiji was mostly holiday travel (up 2,500). Trips to Australia saw a small rise, with more visits to friends and family, partly offset by decreases in holiday and business travel.

Annual trips by New Zealand residents now 2.43 million 

New Zealand residents departed on 2.43 million overseas trips in the March 2016 year. This was up 122,000 (5 percent) from the March 2015 year, setting a new record high.

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

  • Australia (up 36,900 to 1.14 million)
  • Fiji (up 18,600 to 151,500).

New Zealand residents travelling to Australia most often stayed for four days, while travellers heading to Fiji most commonly stayed twice as long.

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

Net gain of migrants falls in March

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,300 migrants in March 2016. The seasonally adjusted net gain in migrants was down from 6,000 in February.

March 2016 had a seasonally adjusted net gain of 100 migrants from Australia. This was the 12th month in a row with a seasonally adjusted net gain of migrants from Australia.

Graph, Seasonally adjusted monthly permanent and long-term migration, March 2006 to 2016.

Annual net gain of migrants breaks record for 20th month in a row

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 67,600 migrants in the March 2016 year. This is the 20th month in a row that the annual net gain in migrants has broken the previous record of  42,500 in the year ended May 2003.

The record annual gain in migrants was driven by an increase in migrant arrivals. Migrant arrivals were 124,100 in the March 2016 year, up 10,300 (9 percent) from the March 2015 year. New Zealand citizens returning to live in New Zealand accounted for one-quarter of all migrant arrivals. In comparison, migrant departures (56,400) were down 1,100 (2 percent).

PLT migration by country of residence

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

  • Australia (up 2,100 to 25,800)
  • China (up 1,700 to 11,700)
  • the Philippines (up 1,300 to 5,500)
  • South Africa (up 1,000 to 2,800).

The increase in arrivals from Australia was for both New Zealand citizens and non-New Zealand citizens. There was a fall in migrant departures to Australia (down 2,100), as fewer New Zealand citizens chose to migrate. This led to a net gain of 1,900 migrants from Australia in the year ended March 2016, the highest annual net gain of migrants from Australia for about 25 years (since the August 1991 year). It was the sixth consecutive month to show an annual net gain.

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

  • India (12,300)
  • China (9,600)
  • the Philippines (5,200).

India provided the largest net gain in migrants for New Zealand in the year ended March 2016. This was primarily because of student arrivals from India outnumbering New Zealand residents moving to India. The arrival of migrants from India on student visas has increased significantly in the last few years. Just 3,400 migrants arrived from India on student visas in the March 2013 year, compared with 9,800 in the March 2016 year. 

While students often only stay in New Zealand for one to five years of study, we consider them migrants, because we define a migrant as a person arriving in New Zealand and intending to make it their country of residence for 12 months or more (ie permanently or long-term).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

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

  • work visas (up 4,200 to 38,600)
  • student visas (up 2,200 to 27,700)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 2,000 to 36,400).

People arriving on work visas mostly came from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia. The most common occupations of migrants arriving on work visas in the March 2016 year (for those who specified their occupation on the arrival card) were hospitality and food trade workers; engineering professionals; bricklayers, carpenters, and joiners; and school teachers. Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

Most students arriving in New Zealand were from India, China, and the Philippines – together accounting for nearly two-thirds of student visa arrivals.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

All regions had a net gain of international migrants in the March 2016 year, led by Auckland (31,200) and Canterbury (7,100). The next-biggest net gains of migrants were in Wellington (2,800), Waikato (2,600), and Bay of Plenty (2,300).

The Auckland region saw 52,400 migrant arrivals in the March 2016 year, up 10 percent from the previous year. Of the migrants arriving in Auckland in the March 2016 year:

  • 16,500 arrived on work visas – the biggest source country being the United Kingdom 
  • 12,900 arrived on student visas – about one-third of students were from India
  • 10,000 were New Zealand citizens returning – 44 percent were returning from Australia
  • 8,600 arrived on resident visas – the biggest source country being China.

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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