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International Travel and Migration: May 2016
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  22 June 2016

Holiday visitor arrivals from China exceed those from Australia in May 

Visitor arrivals numbered 193,600 in May 2016, a new May record. For only the second time on record, holiday visitor arrivals from China exceeded those from Australia (22,200 compared with 20,200). The only other time when holiday visitor arrivals from China surpassed those from Australia was February 2015.

Visitor arrivals were up 16,900 (10 percent) in May 2016 from May 2015.

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, May 2006 to 2016.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

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

  • China (up 4,300 to 29,000)
  • Malaysia (up 2,200 to 4,700)
  • Korea (up 1,300 to 4,900)
  • the United States (up 1,200 to 14,400)
  • Japan (up 1,200 to 5,600).

In May 2016, the median age of a visitor arriving from China was 53 years.  This compares with a median age of 41 years for all other visitor arrivals.

Visitor arrivals from Malaysia increased 88 percent between the two May months, mainly driven by holiday arrivals.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

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

  • holidays (up 12,900 to 87,600)
  • business (up 2,900 to 25,600)
  • education (up 1,000 to 4,000).

Visitors from China, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan boosted holiday arrivals. In contrast, Australia dominated the increase in business arrivals.

Annual visitor arrivals a record 3.29 million in May 2016 year

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand were a record 3.29 million in the May 2016 year. They rose by 314,100 from the May 2015 year, an 11 percent increase.

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between the May years were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 84,700 to 394,500)
  • Australia (up 84,000 to 1.36 million)
  • the United States (up 24,300 to 255,300).

Holiday-makers and visits to friends and relatives accounted for 81 percent (2.66 million) of the visitor arrivals in the May 2016 year. This was up 12 percent (282,900) from the May 2015 year. 

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

Resident departures increase slightly in May

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 210,600 overseas trips in May 2016, up just 1 percent from May 2015. This was a new May record, surpassing the previous record of May 2015 by 1,200 trips.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, May 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 the most time) between May 2015 and 2016 were in trips to:

  • Cook Islands (up 1,200 to 8,200)
  • China (up 1,000 to 8,400)
  • Australia (down 1,400 to 90,900).

Annual trips by New Zealand residents reach 2.45 million 

New Zealand residents departed on a record 2.45 million overseas trips in the May 2016 year. This was up 124,400 (5 percent) from the May 2015 year.

The biggest changes in New Zealand-resident departures by country of main destination between the May years were in departures for:

  • Australia (up 32,000 to 1.14 million)
  • Fiji (up 18,000 to 152,900)
  • the United Kingdom (up 11,400 to 112,800).

The median length of time a New Zealand resident spent in Australia in the May 2016 year was 7 days. This compares with a median length of absence of 15 days for all other countries.

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

Declining trend in monthly net gain of migrants

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,500 migrants in May 2016. Since reaching a peak of 6,200 in November 2015, the seasonally adjusted net gain in migrants has averaged 5,700 a month.

While the monthly net gain of migrants is still positive and remains high relative to historic levels, there is now a declining trend in the net gain.

Graph, Monthly net permanent and long-term migration, May 2006 to 2016.

There was a small seasonally adjusted net gain of 100 migrants from Australia in May 2016. This continued the regular net gains from Australia during the last year, broken only by a small net loss in April 2016.

Annual net gain of migrants now a record 68,400

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 68,400 migrants in the May 2016 year. This is the 22nd month in a row that the annual net gain in migrants has set a new record. Before this period, the record was a net gain of 42,500 migrants in the year ended May 2003.

The countries that contributed the biggest net gains in migration in the year ended May 2016 were:

  • India (12,300)
  • China (9,700)
  • the Philippines (5,100)
  • the United Kingdom (3,900).

Net migration is calculated from permanent and long-term arrivals less permanent and long-term departures. The new record annual net gain in migrants in the May 2016 year, compared with the May 2015 year, was driven primarily by more arrivals. Migrant arrivals were a record 124,800 in the May 2016 year, up 9,700 (8 percent) from the May 2015 year. New Zealand citizens returning to live in New Zealand accounted for one-quarter (30,700) of all migrant arrivals. Migrant departures (56,400) fell slightly (down 900 or 2 percent) from the May 2015 year. 

Graph, Annual permanent and long-term migration, Year ended May 1986 to 2016.

The current run of annual net gains in migration follows a period of net losses in late 2011 and 2012. The most-recent annual net loss of migrants was in the December 2012 year (1,200). Since then, migrant arrivals have increased 39,600 and migrant departures have fallen 30,000, to produce a record 68,400 net gain of migrants in the May 2016 year. The change in migrant arrivals was primarily driven by more non-New Zealand citizens arriving, while the fall in migrant departures was driven by fewer New Zealand citizens leaving.

The increase in migrant arrivals between the May 2015 year and May 2016 year was led by:

  • Australia (up 1,800 to 25,700)
  • China (up 1,700 to 11,800)
  • South Africa (up 1,300 to 3,100)
  • the Philippines (up 1,000 to 5,500).

Migrant departures to Australia fell by 1,400 between the two May years, as fewer New Zealand citizens chose to migrate to Australia. This led to a net gain of 1,700 migrants from Australia in the May 2016 year. May was the eighth consecutive month to show an annual net gain.

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by visa type between the May years were:

  • work visas (up 3,800 to 38,900)
  • student visas (up 2,100 to 27,800)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 1,700 to 36,300).

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 latest year (for those who specified their occupation on the arrival card) were hospitality workers, food trade workers, and engineering professionals. People arriving on work visas include working holidaymakers.

People arriving on student visas mostly came from India, China, and the Philippines.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

All regions had a net gain of international migrants in the May 2016 year, led by Auckland (31,600) and Canterbury (7,000). The next-biggest net gains were in Wellington, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty.

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 PLT migration, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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