International travel to New Zealand hits major milestone after border reopening

  • 12/09/2022

International travel into New Zealand has hit a major milestone, with the number of overseas visitors arriving in the country exceeding 100,000 for the first time since borders closed in March 2020.

But at the same time, more people are still leaving New Zealand than migrating here, leading to an annual net migration loss of 12,400 people in the year to July. That's made up of net losses of 8300 New Zealand citizens and 4100 non-New Zealand citizens.

The latest figures from StatsNZ show that 134,200 overseas visitors arrived in New Zealand in July 2022. That's up from 94,648 in June and the first time more than 100,000 visitors have come here since March 2020, when border controls were introduced.

However, the 134,200 visitors in July 2022 are still well down on the 255,600 recorded in July 2019, prior to the pandemic hitting. 

For most of the past two years, there have been around 2000 and 7000 visitors each month. There was a burst of travellers in the middle of last year when the bubble with Australia was opened. But it fell off again when the bubble was closed due to the Delta outbreak.

Numbers started growing again earlier this year when the border began reopening. Since April, Australians have been able to visit New Zealand, followed by vaccinated travellers from visa-waiver countries like the United Kingdom and the United States. At the end of July, the border fully opened with individuals from non-visa waiver countries able to return to New Zealand along with international students.

Of the overseas visitors in July, 58 percent arrived at Auckland airport (compared to 67 percent in July 2019), 23 percent arrived at Queenstown airport (up from 16 percent in July 2019), 12 percent at Christchurch airport (the same as three years ago), and 7 percent at Wellington airport (up from 6 percent).

About three in every four overseas visitor arrivals in July were from Australia, continuing a pattern of recent months. 

"The increase in overseas visitor arrivals in July was driven by Australian visitors and coincided with the Australian school holidays," population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said. "Australian school holidays varied by state but spanned late June to late July."

About 165,000 New Zealand residents returned to the country from a short-term trip (less than 12 months) in July. That's an increase of 60,000 on June, with one reason being the New Zealand school holidays. In July, 42 percent of New Zealand resident arrivals came from Australia, 14 percent from Fiji, 8 percent from the Cook Islands, 7 percent from the United Kingdom and 6 percent from the United States. 

In the year to July 2022, 414,000 overseas visitors came to New Zealand, up from 201,000 in the year to July 2021. The increase is mostly down to a jump in the number of Australian visitors. 

However, despite the boost in visitor arrivals, there was still an annual net migration loss of 12,400 people in the year to July 2022. Over the year, 52,100 migrants have arrived to stay in New Zealand, while 64,500 have departed.

"After 88 consecutive months of net migration gains, the last 21 months has been mainly net migration losses," Islam said.

"Many of those departing over the last two years were migrants who arrived in the preceding seven years."