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NZ tourist numbers gained 3.9% in December

NZ tourist numbers gained 3.9% in December, migration rose

Feb. 4 – New Zealand tourist arrivals jumped by the most in seven months in December, which may help brighten the mood of the tourism sector preparing for the impact of the global economic downturn.

Short-term visitor numbers rose 3.9% to 205,950, seasonally adjusted, in December from the previous month, according to Statistics New Zealand. That follows a 1% gain in November and was the biggest increase since May. Permanent and long-term arrivals outpaced departures by about 280.

Tourist operators are hoping the New Zealand dollar weakens faster than the global slump erodes demand for travel in an industry that makes up about 10% of the economy. Campervan operator Tourism Holdings gained 3% to 68 cents today, trimming its decline in the past 12 months to 67%.

“The overall travel/migration data-flow for December was mildly

positive,” said Robin Clements, chief economist at UBS New Zeaalnd. Still, “the anecdote on forward-bookings for the tourist sector -February is peak season - remains pessimistic, consistent with the

fall-out from the global downturn yet to impact on arrival numbers.”

Annual immigration growth was the lowest in eight years in 2008, suggesting demand from migrants won’t do much to revive demand for housing, large-ticket purchase like appliances or consumer spending.

In 2008, there were 87,500 permanent and long-term arrivals and 83,600 departures, meaning net migration fell to 3,800 from 5,500 in 2007.

“The migration picture is important for housing and, hence, the rest of the economy ,” Clements said. “It will take several more months to establish an improving trend, which we anticipate, as less New Zealanders leave and more return.”


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