Tourism industry working hard to turn around decrease in international visitor numbers

New Zealand's international visitor numbers currently sit at around two-thirds of what they were pre-COVID-19, with the tourism industry working hard to get them back.

It's a hot topic at TRENZ, New Zealand's biggest international tourism event - which is being held for the first time since the pandemic.

They came, and they came and they came. It's what's now known as the 'revenge travel surge'.

"We were dreaming of travelling," said Tourism Industry Association CEO Rebecca Ingram.

Borders unlocked and people unleashed, wanting revenge on COVID-19 through travel.

And New Zealand was among the desired destinations.

"We saw people spending big, because we felt like we were owed it," Ingram said.

But that's since plateaued. International visitors now sit around 66 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

"If you look at purely holiday arrivals, we're a little over half, that's probably what we expected," Tourism NZ CEO Rene de Monchy said. "Workforce has been a challenge."

The TRENZ conference is back for the first time in four years, with 1500 delegates descending on Christchurch from 29 different countries, selling New Zealand to the world. Because global tourism is more competitive now than ever.

"As we look ahead to the next 18 months to years, it's pretty competitive, lots of destinations are competing for tourism to bolster our economies," de Monchy said.

What New Zealand's competing for most in a post-COVID-19 world is what the industry refers to as 'high-quality visitors', or in layman's terms those with deep pockets.

An Asia-based travel journalist believes current flight prices are the biggest hurdle for New Zealand's market, currently sitting around $2000 per person from Singapore.

"No one's going to pay $8000 for a family of four just to come," said Rachel Lee, from Travel Trade Group Asia Media.

"Currently air fares have to go down so capacity has to go up."

And over the next few days, those inside Te Pae will see a hard sell on Aotearoa's delights and delicacies.