It hasn’t had the media coverage it deserves, but New Zealand is going through a tourism boom. The Tourism Satellite Account, the comprehensive record of tourist spending, found that international tourists spent 17% more in the year to March 2015 than they had the year before that, for a total of $11.8 billion. That’s an absolutely massive rise, the biggest in more than a decade. There was some similar growth back around 2000-2002, but since then double-digit growth has just been a happy memory.

Essentially, the tourism sector has gone from barely keeping pace with inflation in the post-GFC period, to now be growing massively. Tourism has kept growing in the last six months as well, so we’re in for another big rise for the year to March 2016 (I’m guessing it will be 10-12%).

Visitor arrivals are way up, but given that tourists take shorter trips than they used to, my favourite stat is the average number of visitors in NZ on a given day – that’s a better indicator of how much they’re contributing to the economy, and the ‘buzz’ they add to tourist hotspots.

Tourism is booming

This graph shows strong growth over 2000-2002, much slower growth in the years that followed, and faster growth from 2013 until the present.

Auckland will certainly have been getting its share of the tourism pie. Most international visitors fly in and out via Auckland Airport, and the city is also a tourism destination in its own right. We usually get about 37% of the nationwide expenditure by international tourists (excluding airfares, and the percentage would be even higher for those).

So, conservatively, international tourists probably spent at least $4.3 billion in Auckland in the year to March 2015, and the amount for next year looks even bigger. That’s a big injection into the Auckland economy, and of course the wider New Zealand economy too.

Now let’s all celebrate, while listening to the fresh sounds of Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff.

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  1. Which is why an beautiful Auckland waterfront is worth so much more than car-parking,

    We should also be enticing visitors to Waiheke or Devonport or the Waitakeres through accessible and attractive transport. And building a proper high-quality walking and cycling facility from the waterfront up to Mt Eden and the Domain.

    Aucklanders have *no idea* how beautiful their city is. It could be better than Sydney, if we allowed it to be.

    1. Which places do you have in mind? I reckon it’s a no-brainer for Waiheke, Skytower, Mission Bay, Domain and museum, Maungawhau, Mt Eden village, One Tree Hill, Parnell, Devonport, Takapuna Beach…..

      Sure, you would book onto a tour shuttle or get a car for Piha and Muriwai, but hey, that’s not really PT territory is it…?

    1. Fresh Prince the tv gig, not Fresh Prince the music gig – had to look that one up myself on wikipedia to clarify.

      Also, you never cease to surprise me mfwic. Who would have guessed that you like family-friendly 80s pop-rap?

      1. There’s a lot we don’t know about mfwic. We could conjecture that perhaps “in west Philadelphia [he was] born and raised”, and that “in a playground there [he] spent most of [his] days”.

    1. Totally agree, light rail to the airport is just plain stupid.
      People need to get to the whole of Auckland and not just up domain road to the city or whatever silly scheme Auckland Transport seem to be pushing.
      Heavy rail through Onehunga or maybe through Patrick’s Otuhutu idea are the next big urgent thing after the CRL, through it should be done at the same time to be honest.

        1. I tend to agree. LR travel–time too slow.

          It seems to be a choice between buses (low cost) and heavy rail (high cost).

          Maybe both, if you had Otahuhu rail and a c-shaped busway connecting Onehunga via Airport to Manukau and onto Botany.

          Advantage of the latter solution is that you could build the busway now, and benefit existing services, while building the business case around heavy rail.

  2. In Australia, tourists are a high PT-use group in inner Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast where there are good rail-based systems that are easy to understand. It’s simply not fun driving in the inner city or sharing roads with trams, and paying extra for parking at some hotels. Most of the hotels are in the inner city, along with most of the man-made tourist destinations. For anywhere else it’s more practical to hire a car.

    As a Aussie tourist planning a New Zealand holiday for next month, it was easier to continue car hire for a few days (after a rural travel leg) while in Auckland. We will be staying with car-free relatives on the North Shore.

  3. Yep. I’m studying Tourism and found out how massively it’s growing…If Dairying keeps falling then Tourism might end up being our biggest economic contributor.
    Of course, tourism relies on a generally good worldwide economy and good transport links.


  4. An dispite the large growth in tourists Kiwirail and AT shunt the Northern Explorer out to the Strand wastelands.

    This will do nothing beneficial for patronage growth.

    1. Was going to take the Northern Explorer down to Wellington on my upcoming holidays. Enjoy catching that from Britomart. Don’t think I’ll bother know. Don’t need the hassle. They were happy to run a multitude of diesels in there for years. They can’t put up with two per week? Sounds likely baloney. I guess tourists might not care. It’s a once-only trip for them. I was a repeat user. How to drum up business.

  5. The tourism spend figure for Auckland year end March 2015 was actually $6.5b, up 15% including both international and international visitors. Great result and hugely value to the local economy.

      1. Thanks Jason, good to see they’ve finally released the regional figures for 2015 – they weren’t out yet when I initially wrote the post. The $6.5 billion is made up of $3.2 international and $3.3 domestic. Patrick, there are two different data sources being compared here, and they don’t quite cover the same thing… but no Auckland doesn’t capture more than half the spend (or not for the regional data, which doesn’t include international airfares). Auckland gets about 38-40% of the nationwide spending by international visitors, and 22-23% for domestic.

        1. Makes more sense! Still 38-40% is impressive given that AKL is pretty much marketed as just on the way to real destinations. Imagine what could be achieved with work into the idea of attracting and retaining visitors for longer in the city?

          1. Very true, I think most people would be surprised to know it was even that high. Or higher if you factored in the international airfares, and things like education which aren’t included in the regional data either…

          2. Surprised +1.

            But it makes sense. We wouldn’t have that explorer bus and that shark bus driving around otherwise.

            One question though: if someone rents a camper van at the airport, is that counted towards the total for Auckland?

          3. “If someone rents a camper van at the airport, is that counted towards the total for Auckland?” – the rental cost is, yes, although of course the person probably goes on to travel around the North Island and spend money in various places. As far as tourism spend goes, Auckland actually tends to have a higher share of the higher ‘value add’ industries like retail sales than it does of the ones like transport and fuel.

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