By Rebecca Howard
May 14 (BusinessDesk) - Total guest nights spent in hotels, motels, backpackers, and holiday parks fell 4 percent in March from a year earlier largely due to the timing of Easter.
“Guest nights fell across the country in March this year compared with last year, when Easter occurred partly in March,” Stats NZ accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said. Easter Sunday was April 1 last year while this year it fell on April 21.
March 2019 guest night numbers were 3.7 percent higher than March 2017, a more comparable month as Easter was in mid-April in 2017, said McKenzie. Seasonally adjusted guest nights lifted 1.2 percent in March from February.
Stats NZ also said March’s monthly numbers may have been affected by events in the South Island. The Nelson area was battling significant fires during February into early March, Christchurch guest nights may have been impacted by the mosque attacks of March 15, and flooding on the West Coast caused road and bridge closures from March 26, it said.
Total guest nights were 4.01 million, Stats NZ said. Of that, domestic guest nights fell 2.5 percent to 2.13 million while international guest nights dropped 5.7 percent to 1.88 million.
Hotels remained the most popular type of accommodation at 1.39 million guest nights, down 0.7 percent from a year earlier while motels fell 2.9 percent to 1.23 million. Backpackers fell 5.2 percent to 531,000 while holiday parks tumbled 9.8 percent to 857,000.
Totally occupancy rates were at 53.2 percent, with holiday parks at 25.7 percent and hotels at 78.8 percent.
Guest nights fell in 10 of the 12 regional areas, Stats NZ said. Only Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Wellington reported a rise.
The accommodation survey collects data for guests staying in short-term commercial accommodation such as hotels, motels, backpackers, and holiday parks. Hosted and private accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, and holiday homes, are excluded.
Separately, figures showed international visitor arrivals dropped 2.6 percent in March from a year earlier, with much lower numbers in the tail-end of the month.
"Although visitor arrivals in March 2019 were down compared with March 2018, they actually tracked higher for the first three weeks of March," said population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers.
Stats NZ also put the decline in visitor numbers down to the timing of Easter and the terror attacks.
Annual visitor numbers were up 1.3 percent at 3.87 million in the year ended March 31.