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Tourism update

In brief

  • 500,000+ tourists are expected through March 2023.
  • The Government says its Tourism Industry Transformation Plan will create jobs and reduce environmental impact.
  • But, unless Chinese tourism picks up substantially, many are sceptical about the “boom times” Minister Stuart Nash is predicting. 
  • Tourism GDP is down around 40% from pre-COVID levels.

Rosy predictions 

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said he expects “boom times” for New Zealand’s tourism industry. COVID restrictions saw tourism and hospitality industries devastated. The Government is now estimating over half a million international tourists between now and the end of March 2023.

On the other hand, anecdotal reports in the media suggest tourism numbers are way down going into summer.

Overall, tourism, as a contributor to NZ’s economy, is down around 40% at 2.6% of total GDP.  

Tourism update - Centrist
Tourism as a contribution to NZ GDP courtesy of Stats NZ

Tourism Industry Transformation Plan

Nash is touting the Government’s $54m Tourism Industry Transformation Plan. It focuses on increasing the labour pool and reducing the carbon emissions and environmental impact. The fund is also aimed at promoting Māori led and delivered tourism related services. 

The program has two streams. One to fund small, early stage projects with funds up to $25,000 and another to fund projects that are ready to be delivered with funds between $100,000 and $10m. Applicants will receive from 50% to (in some cases) 75% co-funding. The program seems like the Government picking winners. 

In addition to general COVID relief funds, the Government spent around $600m through different programs in supporting the tourism and hospitality sectors affected by the COVID response. 

Let’s hope for the best

Prior to COVID, New Zealand’s tourism industry was centred on visitors from Australia, China and the United States. After a more than 90% decline in tourism’s yearly revenue following the lockdowns and some of the world’s strictest border closures, the border was fully reopened in July 2022. 

Tourism NZ says the post COVID era is focusing on the United States, Canada and Australia with more ports of entry and direct flights to New Zealand than before COVID. However, global instability, lack of airline capacity, high prices and uncertainty around international tourism from China are still a drag on the industry.

Chinese tourists to NZ

Perhaps in a bid to woo Chinese tourists back, the New Zealand Government has decided not to take the step of screening Chinese visitors to New Zealand for COVID despite several countries, including the United States and Australia, opting to do so. This is a recent development, along with China greatly easing their internal Covid restrictions,  so it remains to be seen what effect these two recent factors will have on tourism. Currently tourism from China is down about 60% from pre-COVID levels according to Tourism New Zealand.

Tourism update - Centrist
Courtesy of Stats NZ

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