NZ guest nights come off Easter peak in April, propped up by overseas visitors

Tourist information sign for Wairakei tourist park and Huka Falls. Photo by Maddie Grieveson

New Zealand guest nights fell in April as an earlier Easter holiday kept a lid on domestic travel, while international visitor accommodation remained strong, especially in the South Island.

Total guest nights slipped 0.9 percent in April to 3.43 million stays from the same month a year earlier, a period bolstered by Easter weekend, Anzac Day and school holidays falling in the same month, Statistics New Zealand said. Domestic stays fell 3.4 percent to 1.873 million, while international guest nights gained 2.2 percent to 1.57 million.

"Easter fell partly in March this year, which boosted March statistics but had a dampening effect on April," Stats NZ accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said in a statement. "This year these events were more spread out.”

New Zealand has been enjoying record tourism numbers in recent years, although that's expected to go through a brief lull as airlines tinker with their capacity and youth travel slows down. National carrier Air New Zealand this week signalled price hikes on some international routes, having already raised prices on domestic flights where it dominates the local market.

Today's figures show South Island guest nights rose 5.5 percent to 1.5 million, driven by an 11 percent jump in foreign guest nights to 847,000. International stays in Queenstown rose to 237,587 in April from 216,531 a year earlier, with about 6,000 top-selling Chinese Amway reps spending five nights at the tourist destination in an incentive scheme. That helped offset a 5.4 percent fall in North Island stays to 1.93 million.

National hotel occupancy rates slipped to 70.9 percent in April from 73.2 percent a year earlier, while motels shrank to 62 percent from 63.2 percent. Backpacker occupancy rates fell 0.7 of a percentage point to 46.6 percent, while holiday parks were flat at 20 percent.

Annual guest nights were 39.89 million in the year through April at an occupancy rate of 45.14 percent across 3,056 establishments. That compares to 38.64 million guest nights at an occupancy rate of 44.06 percent across 3,099 establishments in the April 2017 year.