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International Travel and Migration: November 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 December 2012

November visitor arrivals increase

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 232,100 in November 2012. This was up 1 percent from November 2011 (230,300).

Graph, monthly visitor arrivals, November 2002 to 2012.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between November 2011 and November 2012 were in arrivals from:

  • China (up 3,300)
  • Australia (up 2,300) 
  • the United States (down 1,200)
  • the United Kingdom (down 2,200).

Visitor arrivals from China numbered 21,800 in November 2012 – the highest ever for a November month, and an increase of 18 percent from the November 2011 figure (18,600).

Within Australia, there were more visitors from Victoria (up 2,400) and Western Australia (up 1,200) but fewer from Queensland (down 1,000).  

Arrivals from the United Kingdom have decreased in most months since April 2007, just after the start of the global economic downturn.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between November 2011 and November 2012 were in arrivals for:

  • visiting friends and relatives (up 1,700)
  • conferences/conventions (down 1,500).   

Visits from Australia contributed most to the change in arrivals to visit friends and relatives (up 1,200) and the decrease in arrivals for conferences/conventions (down 1,100). The number of arrivals for conferences/conventions varies depending on the events being held in New Zealand.

Holiday visitor arrivals in November 2012 (109,800) were similar to November 2011 (110,000), but there were differences by country. China (up 2,500) and Australia (up 2,000) contributed more holiday arrivals, offset by fewer from the United Kingdom (down 2,000), Germany, and the United States (each down 700).

China overtakes UK as second-biggest annual source of visitors

There were 2.565 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand in the November 2012 year. This was down 1 percent from the November 2011 year (2.583 million), which was boosted by visitor arrivals for the Rugby World Cup. 

Visitor arrivals from China (194,800) were up 53,500 from the November 2011 year. This increase, coupled with a decrease in visitors from the United Kingdom (down 40,400 to 191,400), saw China become New Zealand's second-biggest source of visitors. Australia remains the biggest source, supplying 1.158 million visitors in the November 2012 year. In percentage terms, Australia accounted for 45 percent of all visitors to New Zealand, and China 8 percent.

There has been dramatic growth in arrivals from China over the past 20 years. In the year ended November 1992, there were just 3,300 visitors. This rose to 74,300 visitors in 2002.

Holidaymakers made up 71 percent of visitor arrivals from China in the November 2012 year. A further 12 percent were in New Zealand to visit friends and relatives, while 8 percent arrived on business.

The median length of stay for Chinese visitors in the November 2012 year was 3.5 days, compared with 8.7 days for all visitors. The median age of visitors from China was 47 years, older than the median age of 40 years for all visitors. Of those visitors from China who stated a province, around half lived in Shanghai, Beijing (each 17 percent), and Guangdong province (14 percent).  

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

Fewer resident departures in November

New Zealand residents departed on 173,200 overseas trips in November 2012, down 1 percent from November 2011. Many residents delayed travel until after the Rugby World Cup, resulting in more trips in November 2011 (174,600). The November 2012 figure is still higher than the 160,800 trips taken in November 2010.

  Graph, monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, November 2002 to 2012.

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 when overseas) between November 2011 and November 2012 were in trips to:

  • Korea (down 700)
  • Australia (down 1,500).

New Zealand residents take more trips in the November 2012 year

Trips by New Zealand residents in the November 2012 year (2.171 million) rose 4 percent from the November 2011 year (2.080 million).

The biggest increases were in trips to Australia (up 24,300) and the United States (up 17,800). Over recent decades, changes in the number of trips to the United States have followed changes in the exchange rate.

In the November 2012 year, more trips were also made to a number of Pacific island destinations, including Fiji (up 4,800), the Cook Islands (up 4,400), and Samoa (up 3,800). There were also more trips to Japan (up 3,600), Thailand (up 3,500), and India (up 3,400).

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

Net gain of 600 migrants in November 

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 600 migrants in November 2012. This is the highest seasonally adjusted net gain of migrants since December 2010 (700).

Graph, monthly PLT arrivals, November 2007 to 2012.  Graph, monthly PLT departures, November 2007 to 2012.

There was a seasonally adjusted net loss of 2,800 migrants to Australia in November 2012. This is the lowest net loss to Australia since February 2011 (2,500), and is below the average of 3,300 between March 2011 and October 2012. The change in November 2012 was due to more arrivals from and fewer departures to Australia. 

Since the start of the series in 1996, the highest ever net loss to Australia was 4,300 in February 2001. This was just before the eligibility of New Zealand citizens to access certain welfare benefits in Australia was changed on 26 February 2001.

Net migration loss in the November 2012 year

Unadjusted figures showed there were 84,600 PLT arrivals in the November 2012 year, just above the 84,400 migrants in the November 2011 year. PLT departures numbered 86,200, up from 85,000 the previous year. This resulted in a net loss of 1,600 migrants in the November 2012 year. 

New Zealand has experienced many periods of net migration loss. The highest net loss since the PLT migration series started (in April 1921) was 43,600 people in the July 1979 year.

A net loss of 38,800 people to Australia contributed to New Zealand's net loss of migrants in the November 2012 year. This is down from the record net loss of 40,000 in the August 2012 year. The November figure resulted from 53,500 departures to Australia, offset by 14,600 arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

There were net gains of migrants from most other countries in the November 2012 year, led by:

  • the United Kingdom (5,600)
  • China (5,200)
  • India (5,000)
  • the Philippines (2,100)
  • Germany (1,600)
  • Ireland (1,200). 

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

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