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International Travel and Migration: May 2011
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 June 2011

Visitor arrivals

Monthly visitor arrivals

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 140,700 in May 2011, just below the May 2010 total of 141,300.

Monthly visitors by source country

In May 2011, more visitors arrived from Australia (up 2,400). The main increases were from Victoria (up 1,700) and Queensland (up 900).

New flights from Kuala Lumpur (from April 2011) and Singapore (from March 2011) resulted in more visitor arrivals from Malaysia (up 2,300) and Singapore (up 700) in May 2011. The 4,100 visitor arrivals from Malaysia were more than double the 1,800 arrivals in May 2010.

Fewer visitors arrived from Japan (down 2,900), Korea (down 1,400), the United Kingdom, and the United States (each down 1,300) in May 2011. Sharp decreases in visitors from Japan and Korea began after the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February.

Graph, visitors from Malaysia, month of May.   Graph, visitors from the United States, month of May.

Note: Provisional international travel statistics, including weekly and four-weekly visitor arrival data, are available on the Statistics NZ website. This data is updated each week with the most recently available information on visitor arrivals from 10 major source countries.

Annual visitor arrivals

Annual visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 2.516 million in the year ended May 2011, up 25,300 (1 percent) from 2010 (2.491 million).

Almost half of all visitors in the May 2011 year arrived for a holiday (1.185 million). Another 794,000 arrived to visit friends and relatives, and 248,800 arrived for business purposes.

Graph, annual visitor arrivals, year ended May.   Graph, visitor arrivals by reason, year ended May.

Compared with the May 2010 year, there were more visitor arrivals from China (up 28,200), Australia (up 8,500), and Malaysia (up 6,400). Fewer visitors arrived from the United Kingdom (down 28,600) and the United States (down 5,800).

Detailed tables about visitor arrivals

The International Visitor Arrivals to New Zealand report, released monthly, contains detailed tables about the number and characteristics of visitor arrivals to New Zealand. The May 2011 report will be available from 23 June 2011 and accessible from the International Visitor Arrivals to New Zealand homepage on the Statistics NZ website (

Departures of New Zealand residents

Monthly resident departures

New Zealand residents departed on 181,800 short-term overseas trips in May 2011, up 10 percent from the 165,400 trips in  2010. This is a record for a May month, 5 percent higher than the previous record of 174,000 in May 2008.

There were more trips to Australia (up 4,300), Thailand (up 2,000), the Cook Islands (up 1,200), Malaysia (up 1,100), and Singapore (up 900) in May 2011, compared with May 2010. Departures to the South-East Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore were boosted by new flights introduced earlier this year. The increase in trips to Thailand was also partly a recovery following civil unrest which affected departures to that country in May 2010.

 Graph, monthly resident departures, May 2001 to May 2011.

Note: Provisional international travel statistics, including weekly and four-weekly resident departure data, are available on the Statistics NZ website. This data is updated each week with the most recently available information on resident departures to 10 major destination countries.

Annual resident departures

Short-term departures of New Zealand residents in the May 2011 year numbered 2.073 million, up 127,500 (7 percent) from the May 2010 year.

Almost half of all trips in the year ended May 2011 were to Australia (990,000). The next most popular destinations were the United States, Fiji (each 99,000), the United Kingdom (93,900), China (67,000), the Cook Islands (62,800), and Samoa (44,100).

A holiday was the main travel purpose for 833,900 New Zealand residents who departed in the May 2011 year. Another 710,800 departed to visit friends and relatives and 291,700 departed for business.

Graph, annual resident departures, year ended May.   Graph, resident departures by reason, year ended May.

Permanent and long-term migration


Permanent and long-term (PLT) arrivals include people who arrive in New Zealand intending to stay for a period of 12 months or more (or permanently), plus New Zealand residents returning after an absence of 12 months or more. PLT arrivals may include people with New Zealand residency, as well as students and holders of work permits. PLT departures include New Zealand residents departing for an intended period of 12 months or more (or permanently), plus overseas visitors departing New Zealand after a stay of 12 months or more.

Monthly PLT migration

On a seasonally adjusted basis, there was a net outflow of 400 migrants in May 2011. This series has been negative since March 2011, when there was a jump in departures from Christchurch following the earthquake that damaged many homes and businesses in the city on 22 February.

On an unadjusted basis, there were 2,100 more PLT departures than arrivals in May 2011, compared with 1,300 more departures than arrivals in May 2010. The main contributor to the higher net outflow was 1,300 more departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia. This was partly offset by 500 more arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens.

PLT departures of Christchurch residents numbered 800 in May 2011, up from 500 in May 2010. PLT arrivals into the city decreased from 400 to 300 over the same period. Since the earthquake on 22 February to the end of May 2011, there have been 1,300 more departures from Christchurch and 400 fewer arrivals into Christchurch compared with the same period in 2010.

In May 2011, New Zealand recorded net inflows of migrants from India and China (each 300). The net outflow of 3,300 PLT migrants to Australia was up from 1,700 in May 2010, and higher than the previous May month record net outflow of 2,900 in May 1979.

Annual PLT migration

Net migration was 4,600 in the year ended May 2011, compared with 18,000 in the May 2010 year. The 83,800 PLT arrivals in the May 2011 year were just above the 82,800 arrivals in the May 2010 year. The 79,200 PLT departures were up 22 percent from the 64,900 PLT departures in the May 2010 year.

The net PLT migration gain of 4,600 in the May 2011 year was below the annual average gain for the December years 1991–2010 (12,000). Net PLT migration varied substantially within this 20-year period. The net gain peaked at 30,200 in the April 1996 year and again at 42,500 in the May 2003 year. Net outflows were experienced during most of 1998–2001. The largest was a net loss of 13,200 people in the February 2001 year. 

Graph, annual PLT migration, May 1996 to 2011.   Graph, annual net PLT migration, May 1996 to 2011.


Annual PLT migration by country

In the May 2011 year, the highest net inflow of migrants was from India (6,000). This was followed by the United Kingdom (5,000), and China (4,100).

The net PLT outflow to Australia was 28,600 in the May 2011 year – between the outflows in 2009 (30,500) and 2010 (15,200). The latest net outflow resulted from 43,800 departures to Australia being partly offset by 15,200 arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

Annual PLT migration by citizenship

There was a net outflow of 28,600 New Zealand citizens in the May 2011 year, up from 13,300 in the May 2010 year. The net inflow of 33,300 non-New Zealand citizens was up from the previous year's figure of 31,300.

PLT arrivals of New Zealand citizens numbered 24,000 in the May 2011 year, just above the average of 23,500 recorded for the 1979–2010 December years, but below the peaks of the March 1991 year (29,600) and the October 2003 year (27,800). Arrivals of New Zealand citizens tend to show relatively little variation year-to-year, and the variation that does occur often follows trends in departures of New Zealand citizens a few years earlier.

PLT departures of New Zealand citizens show much more annual variation than arrivals of New Zealand citizens. The highest number of departures of New Zealand citizens was 64,300 in the October 1979 year, but by the January 1984 year, this had decreased to a low of 24,400. PLT departures of New Zealand citizens numbered 52,700 in the year ended May 2011.

 Graph, annual PLT migration of New Zealand citizens, March 1979 year onwards.

PLT arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens were less than 30,000 a year between 1979 and 1992, then doubled to reach a peak of 58,800 in the July 1996 year. Another peak of 72,800 was reached in the February 2003 year. The changes in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens reflect changes in arrivals of temporary workers (including working holidaymakers) and overseas students staying for 12 months or more; as well as arrivals for residence. The 59,800 non-New Zealand citizen arrivals in the May 2011 year were up from 56,600 arrivals in the previous year.

PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens have generally been increasing since 1984, corresponding with the general increase in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens. In the May 2011 year, there were 26,500 PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens, up from 25,300 in the May 2010 year.

 Graph, annual PLT migration of non-New Zealand citizens, March 1979 year onwards.

Annual PLT migration by visa type

In the May 2011 year, 28,100 PLT arrivals were Australian or New Zealand citizens. Of the remaining 55,700 migrants, most arrived on:

  • work visas (21,000)
  • student visas (16,900)
  • residence visas (12,900)
  • visitor visas (4,300).

Compared with 2010, more migrants arrived on student (up 1,900), work (up 1,000), and visitor (up 400) visas. Fewer migrants arrived on residence visas (down 400).

Recent international travel and migration articles

Statistics NZ has released a number of International travel and migration articles that can be accessed on the Statistics NZ website ( The most recent articles are:

Feb 2011 Travel and migration to and from India, 1990–2010 examines permanent and long-term (PLT) migration and short-term travel to and from India. India is an increasingly important source and destination country.
Jan 2011

An introduction to international migration by region: 1996–2010 includes a discussion of data quality, followed by sections of analysis that highlight key features of migration to and from New Zealand's regions.

Sep 2010

New Zealand's International Migration Statistics, 1922–2009 follows on from an article released in April 2010, which looked at migration statistics from 1860 to 1921.

For technical information contact:
Nicholas Thomson
Christchurch 03 964 8700

Next release ...

International Travel and Migration: June 2011 will be released on 21 July 2011.

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