By Rebecca Howard
Feb. 15 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand guest nights rose 4 percent in December from a year earlier as the number of international visitors continued to rise and many traveled to the South Island.
Total guest nights increased to 4.14 million in December from 3.98 million a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Of that, international guest nights rose 6.2 percent to 1.93 million, outpacing a 2.1 percent gain in domestic accommodation stays to 2.22 million.
North Island stays rose 2.1 percent to 2.37 million and South Island guest nights gained 6.5 percent to 1.77 million. On the South Island, international guest nights lifted 8.3 percent to 1 million while domestic guest nights were up 4.2 percent to 767,000. On the North Island, however, international guest nights lifted 4 percent to 921,000 while domestic guest nights were up 1 percent to 1.45 million.
"South Island growth was driven by more international guest nights being spent in Canterbury, Otago, and Southland regions than in December 2016. Canterbury guest nights had been dampened in December 2016 following the Kaikōura earthquakes in November," said accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie.
Ten of 12 regions reported an increase in guest nights. The largest increases were in Canterbury, where guest nights lifted 12 percent on the year to 572,000 and Otago, where they were up 4.8 percent to 632,000. Auckland was unchanged from the prior year while Nelson, Marlborough Tasman slipped 0.2 percent.
New Zealand has been enjoying a booming tourism sector in recent years as low airfares made it easier for visitors to travel to the remote South Pacific destination.
The occupancy rate across accommodation types lifted to 50.4 percent in December, the highest since March, and up from 49.2 percent a year earlier.
Today's figures show hotel guest nights, typically favoured by foreign visitors, rose 5.3 percent to 1.3 million in December from a year earlier, with international stays up 7.4 percent to 699,000. Hotel occupancy was 70.5 percent in the month, compared to 69.2 percent a year earlier.
Motel stays increased 0.8 percent to 1.17 million, with a 7.8 percent gain from international visitors to 475,000 offsetting a 3.5 percent decline in domestic guest nights to 691,000. Motel occupancy was 62.1 percent versus 62.5 percent in December 2016.
Backpacker guest nights rose 1 percent to 512,000 with an occupancy rate at 50.8 percent compared to 50.3 percent a year earlier, while holiday park stays gained 7.2 percent to 1.16 million at an occupancy rate of 31.1 percent, up from 29 percent.