By Paul McBeth
March 14 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's accommodation providers reported flat guest numbers in January as more domestic travellers made up for a dip in foreign visitors.
Total guest nights were largely unchanged from a year ago at 4.97 million, in what is typically the country's peak month for accommodation, Stats NZ said. Of that, domestic guest nights were up 1 percent at 2.88 million, offsetting a 1.4 percent decline in international guest nights to 2.09 million.
"Flat guest nights this January may reflect increased popularity in other types of accommodation," accommodation and construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said in a statement.
"Some accommodation types not measured in commercial accommodation statistics include people staying with friends and relatives, bed and breakfasts, freedom camping, and holiday houses," she said.
Stats NZ will release travel data for January tomorrow. Its December figures showed about 529,000 foreigners visited New Zealand that month. The median length of that stay was 13 days in the month of December, compared to nine days for calendar 2018.
New Zealand has been experiencing strong growth in its tourism sector for several years, although those numbers have stretched existing infrastructure. Data last week showed the value of building work put in place on hotels, motels, boarding houses and prisons climbed 35 percent to $789 million in calendar 2018. It was the only construction category to expand at a double-digit pace in each of the past three years.
Today's accommodation figures show hotels, motels and holiday parks boosted their capacity, while backpackers shrank theirs. That meant occupancy rates were down at 56.7 percent compared to 58.7 percent in January 2018.
Hotels remained the most popular type of accommodation at 1.39 million guest nights, down 0.1 percent from January 2018, while motel guest nights were up 0.9 percent at 1.33 million.
Tourist hot-spot Otago, which includes Queenstown, posted a 2 percent decline in guest nights at 708,000. Bay of Plenty, which includes Rotorua, was down 5.7 percent at 519,000.
Southland had the fewest guest nights at 155,000 in January, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier, and Auckland's 726,000 was 2.8 percent more than January 2018.