The Dominion Post
Chinese boost tourist inflow
A FLOOD of Chinese tourists has been helping fill the arrival halls of Auckland Airport in record numbers.
A new high of more than 780,000 international travellers went through the airport in December, up almost 5 per cent on the same month a year before.
There were 11,000 more foreign travellers going through the airport than the previous record month of January 2014.
And the strong run continued from late December into January. There was a record 195,103 international arrivals in the week ending January 11. That topped the previous weekly record of more than 187,000 set in the middle of December.
Auckland International Airport shares rose 3 cents to $4.50 yesterday and the shares are up 25 per cent in the past year.
The massive numbers in December were fuelled by capacity increases on North Asian routes driving high visitor arrivals over summer, as well as people travelling to visit friends and relatives for Christmas.
In December alone, more than 25,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Auckland, up more than 38 per cent on December 2013, the biggest jump in percentage terms of any top 10 market.
Chinese arrivals in the month were close behind those from the United States at about 25,000, up 6 per cent on the previous year.
In contrast, December arrival numbers from the key markets of Australia and Britain were both 0.7 per cent lower.
In the calendar year Auckland Airport handled 7.8 million international travellers, up 4.5 per cent.
There were more arrivals from China, Australia, India, Japan and the United States, as airlines added more route capacity, the airport said.
Total domestic passenger numbers through the airport were almost flat in the year, up just 1.4 per cent.
Statistics NZ figures showed the rush of Chinese tourists helped lift national tourist arrivals by 5 per cent in December, with more international visitors expected to come on the back of a falling Kiwi dollar, cheaper jet fuel and more Hobbit fans.
The figures showed total visitor arrivals hit 402,500 in December, up 20,600 from December 2013 despite the high New Zealand dollar.
China was the biggest source of growth, with 39 per cent more visitors from China than in 2013.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said 2014 had been a ‘‘stellar’’ year of growth and it was expected to carry on this year.
Annual visitor growth, up 5 per cent to more than 2.8 million, had been also been supported by strong arrivals growth from Germany and the US, which were up almost 19 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
The figures were outstanding as both Germany and the US provided long-staying, high-value visitors.
‘‘We know these results are strongly linked to our efforts in promoting New Zealand as the real Middle-earth,’’ Bowler said.
Compared with December 2013, arrivals from China were up 7300 in the last month of 2014, with an extra 1700 from America and almost as many extra from Germany.
More tourists are coming from China as more direct air links open up between the two countries, with the prospect of more to come. More independent travellers are also arriving, rather than group tours.
After a strong year, tourism is expected to get a further boost this year as both the New Zealand dollar and international jet fuel prices tumble, Infometrics economists said.
The Tourism Industry Association said the latest figures showed good progress towards a 2025 goal of tourism adding $41 billion a year to the economy.
Total visitor arrivals numbered 2.86 million in the December 2014 year, up 5 per cent from the December 2013 year and better than expected.
Meanwhile, overseas trips by New Zealanders hit 230,800 in December, up 9600 on the same month in 2013, with more people travelling to Australia, the US and Fiji. The annual increase was 4 per cent, with New Zealanders taking 2.27 million overseas trips in 2014.