By Gavin Evans
April 16 (BusinessDesk) - Passenger arrivals from China into Auckland International Airport dropped 29 percent in February – more than offsetting a gain in January from the earlier start of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Arrivals from China dropped to 41,080 in February, from 57,903 a year earlier when Chinese tourist arrivals in New Zealand had been a record.
The airport, the country’s largest, cited the change in holiday date when explaining the change. Arrivals from China were 9 percent higher in January at 36,137, but that was an increase of only about 3,000 from the year before. Across the two months, volumes were down 15 percent.
China is the second-largest source of international visitors to New Zealand, having overtaken the UK and the US in 2012. Australia remains the biggest by a wide margin, accounting for about 1.5 million visitors in the year ended February – more than three-times the Chinese figure, according to Stats NZ.
In February, Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood attributed the weaker growth from China in the second-half of 2018 to a slowing economy there. He downplayed suggestions cooler government relations had contributed.
The company’s shares fell 0.5 percent to $7.95 today, trimming their gain the past year to 24 percent.
Last week, Stats NZ reported that total overseas arrivals in February totalled 417,900, about 5,500 fewer than a year earlier. Arrivals from China were down 18,100 but the number of New Zealanders returning from China was 5,300 higher. The government statistician also noted the impact of the earlier start to the New Year holiday.
International passenger movements through Auckland Airport in February were barely changed from a year earlier. Growth from India, Korea and Germany helped offset the drop in numbers from China, but also fewer arrivals from Japan, the UK and Australia.
Increased domestic movements lifted the total passenger count that month to 1.75 million, 2 percent more than a year earlier. Movements for the eight months through February were 14.3 million – 3.5 percent more than a year earlier, while the 12-month rolling tally stood at 21.02 million - a 3.9 percent increase.
Chinese arrivals in the eight months ended February were down 6.3 percent on the year before; on a 12-month basis they were down 1.8 percent.
Auckland Airport’s passenger movements in the June 2018 financial year had increased 5.7 percent to 20.53 million – reflecting a 7.7 percent increase in domestic numbers and a 4.7 percent increase in international travel. Chinese arrivals were almost 11 percent higher that year, those from the US were up almost 2 percent, while Korea and India posted double-digit gains.
For the 12 months through February, international passenger movements were 3.6 percent higher and domestic movements were 5.1 percent higher. Australian arrivals have been marginally weaker during the past 12 months, those from China were down almost 2 percent and visitors from the UK were down almost 8 percent. Arrivals from the US, Canada and India all increased.
Aircraft movements through Auckland in February totalled 14,640, 5.3 percent more than a year earlier. Domestic movements were 7.4 percent higher at 10,132, while international traffic was 1.1 percent higher 4,508. Total movements in the eight-month period were 3.6 percent higher at 121,240; on a 12-month rolling basis they were 2.8 percent higher at 178,439.