Tourists spend $14.6b in NZ
Dominion Post - 24 May 2003  

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By JILLIAN TALBOT

Tourists spent $14.6 billion in New Zealand last year.

Of that, international travellers contributed $6.2 billion - more than meat exports, which bring in $4.5 billion, but less than dairy receipts, which contribute $7.4 billion.

Total tourist spending was 3.4 per cent more than last year.

But the growth rate has slackened from more than 7 per cent last year and almost 9 per cent the year before.

Statistics NZ said the terrorist attacks in 2001 could have contributed to the slower growth rate last year.

Some economists say Sars-induced falls in visitor numbers could shave more off this year's tourism earnings.

ANZ Bank said that despite New Zealand's safe-haven status, which had cushioned the tourism industry previously, indications were that Sars would have a more profound impact. "Visitor arrivals from Asia peaked in December and January prior to the war in Iraq and the outbreak of Sars and have fallen sharply since then."

This had been partly offset by increased arrivals from Australia but "we estimate that falling visitor numbers overall will cost the tourism industry around $200 million over the next few months", ANZ said.

But Tourism Research Council chairman Sean Murray said though tourists from Asia fell 30 per cent in April compared with the same time last year, big increases in arrivals from New Zealand's three biggest markets - Australia, Britain and the United States - had compensated.

"While Asia has certainly been affected, it comprises just one-quarter of arrivals. With strong growth being achieved from the other three-quarters of our arrivals, the overall effect over the critical March-to-April period has been minimal." Compared with April last year, arrivals from Australia rose 28 per cent, Britain 47 per cent and the US 9.7 per cent.