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Quarantine Free Travel With Australia Saw Boost In International Visitors

New population density data, provided by data consultancy Data Ventures, shows that Quarantine Free Travel with Australia led to an increase of international visitors by approximately 500% when compared with the weeks prior.

The new figures show estimates of how many short-term international visitors were in the country before, during, and after the Quarantine Free Travel period, which opened on 19 April and was suspended on 23 July.

During the Quarantine Free Travel period there was an estimated average of 19,000 international visitors in New Zealand on any given day. Short-term international visitors were defined as those who stayed for less than 90 days.

In the week after 23 July, when Quarantine Free Travel was suspended, the number of international visitors fell to an estimated average of 13,000. Visitor number are likely to continue dropping while the borders remain closed.

In the weeks before Quarantine Free Travel opened on 19 April, the number of short-term international visitors in New Zealand was steady at an estimated 3,500 people.

Australians weren’t the only ones enjoying New Zealand between April and July – during the same period, an estimated 400,000 Kiwis, or 8% of the nation’s population, travelled outside of their home regions on an average day.

Robert Chiu, Head of Data at Data Ventures, said population density estimates, sourced from aggregated and anonymised mobile phone location data coupled with estimates of the number of people in New Zealand, offered unique insights into visitor movements during Quarantine Free Travel.

“It provides invaluable insights into people’s mobility, their behaviours, and at what time of day locations are busy or not. So, when assessing population density during Quarantine Free Travel with Australia, there was an obvious spike in international visitors. Encouragingly, many appear to have been reasonably well-spread throughout New Zealand.

“Domestic tourism also saw a spike more recently, during the July school holidays. On average, over the two-week holiday period, there were 455,000 New Zealanders outside of their home regions – almost 100,000 more than in the two weeks before the school holidays started. That’s good news for tourism, but last year these numbers were much higher. In the 2020 July school holidays, there were an average of 520,000 domestic visitors across the country – probably because this was the first school holiday period after lockdown ended. The largest drops in visitors from last year were seen in Coromandel, West Coast, Kaikoura, and Fiordland.”

“This type of information is important to inform decision making, especially as private and public organisations alike seek to better match their services and support to small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“These insights are beneficial to many business owners who are able to leverage them to inform their commercial decisions. For example, business owners may find these insights useful when making plans around staffing for those times of year where tourism is at its highest, or for knowing what to expect next time Quarantine Free Travel opens up,” he said.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Tourism Evidence and Insights Team’s Acting Manager, Michael Webster, said Data Venture’s insights on population estimates are a valuable contributor to the Ministry’s Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre, a free, interactive resource for tourism businesses, policymakers, and the general public to access precise information about the tourism sector.

“The population estimate insights provided by Data Ventures are a great asset for our Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre.”

“Our aim at MBIE has been to support businesses in making better, evidence-based decisions, and these data insights help to make that possible. The Centre is now the go-to database for tourism operators and businesses who want to build a clear understanding of what trends are arising in unpredictable times.”


How does Data Ventures compile population density data?

Data Ventures’ telecommunications partners Spark and Vodafone provide an hourly count of mobile phone locations across New Zealand. The phone counts from both providers are combined to give a device count and the devices are segmented as representing international visitors, domestic visitors, and local residents using a combination of SIM card and location information. The device counts are then converted into population counts, accounting for people with multiple mobile phones and people without mobile phones.

People’s privacy is guaranteed. All data is aggregated and anonymised and small counts of mobile devices are suppressed.

About Data Ventures

Launched in 2017, Data Ventures is an independent and wholly-owned subsidiary of Stats NZ. They provide a full range of data analytics and consultancy services to help organisations make better, more informed decisions.

For more information about Data Ventures visit here.

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