International tourists bring $1 billion boost to economy despite tourist numbers still below pre-pandemic levels

Despite tourist numbers yet to return to pre-pandemic levels the industry is booming with international tourists bringing over $1 billion into the economy.

The International Visitor Survey (IVS) for the September 2022 quarter found the total spend from all international visitors totalled $1.03 billion for the three months with a huge $626 million of that coming from Australian visitors. It found holidaymakers spent $479 million, and Visitors for friends or relatives spent $292 million.

Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash told Ryan Bridge on AM the spending is coming from tourists staying a little longer and spending more, rather than an influx of tourists entering the country.

"It's absolutely fantastic news because what it shows is our value proposition is a global tourism destination, it's still as strong as it ever was," he said.

Nash said the country is at about 58 percent of pre-pandemic tourist numbers but is two percent higher than pre-COVID spending.

"For me, it's never been about the numbers... It's about the spend," Nash said.

He said he has always pushed in a post-COVID world for "high-quality tourism" which is for tourists to stay longer and spend more.

The median international holidaymaker spent $2800 over their entire visit, while those visiting friends or relatives spent $1500. While, the median visitor for friends or relatives stayed for 11 days, while the median holidaymaker stayed for eight days.

Regions are benefiting from the return of international tourists with Tourism Electronic Card Transactions TECT spend in eight regions (out of 16) was higher than October 2019 levels pre-COVID.

International spending in Gisborne had the greatest increase (up 47 percent), followed by Hawke's Bay (up 45 percent). International spending in Wellington, Waikato and Auckland were all at nearly 100 percent of pre-COVID October 2019 levels.

"Every tourist just needs to do one more thing a day, whether that's buying a nice bottle of wine, whether it's fish 'n chips on the beach in Kaikōura, whether it's a nice meal in Hawke's Bay, but just one more thing," Nash said.

"My vision for tourism in a post-COVID world is for us to be one of the top three aspirational destinations for the world's most discerning travellers and it seems that's what we are... This is the place to be."