Chinese visitors to New Zealand drop during peak Chinese New Year period

Chinese visitors to New Zealand dropped during a peak holiday period this year, while visitors from other countries increased.

The number of visitor arrivals from China was 50,900 in February, down 18,000 from the same time in 2018 - and it's due to fewer arrivals during the Chinese New Year period.

Stats NZ released data that showed total visitor arrivals to New Zealand in February this year were 417,900, down 5,500 compared with the same month in 2018.

Visitor numbers from countries other than China rose, however, with an increased amount of arrivals from countries such as South Korea, Australia and Taiwan.

Visitor number changes

  • South Korea - up 1,800
  • United Kingdom - down 1,700
  • Australia - up 1,200
  • Taiwan - up 1,200

The Chinese New Year is a peak holiday season for travellers from China. And while the number of Chinese visitors dropped in February, Stats NZ said it was still more than in 2017.

"There were 68,900 visitor arrivals from China in February 2018, which was more than double the 33,700 seen in 2017," Brooke Theyers, Stats NZ population insights senior manager, said.

Despite the drop in Chinese visitors, Stats NZ said the total number of visitor arrivals for the year ended February 2019 was 3.88 million, up 102,500 from the February 2018 year. 

Amid speculation of soured relations between China and New Zealand, state-backed newspaper The China People's Daily published an article in February claiming tourists were turning away, playing to the narrative of a China-NZ rift.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently travelled to China where she met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, where the two leaders said they both view New Zealand as a long-term friend.

Ardern said she raised the "importance New Zealand places on upgrading and modernising our Free Trade Agreement with China - an ambition that [President Xi] shared".

The China-New Zealand Year of Tourism campaign also kicked off last month at Wellington's Te Papa museum, which quieted talk of a tense relationship after the launch had been postponed by China.

The Chinese economy has weakened recently. Bloomberg analysts said in January that China's economy expanded at the slowest pace since the global financial crisis of 2008.

The world's second-largest economy is also embroiled in a trade war with the United States, and analysts have said its slowdown is also having an effect on companies and industries worldwide - including tourism.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) forecast that by 2024, Chinese tourists will be worth $3 billion a year, overtaking Australia as New Zealand's largest tourism market.


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