New Zealand short term visitor numbers fell in September compared to a year earlier which were bolstered by the Rugby World Cup. China overtook the US as the country's third largest visitor source.

Some 179,100 short-term visitors arrived in New Zealand last month down from 219,900 visitors in September 2011 when visitors flocked here for the world cup, according to Statistics New Zealand. That's up from 174,200 visitors in September 2010.

The monthly figures showed China overtook the US as New Zealand's third largest visitor source in the September year up 38 per cent to 186,800. Visitors from US fell 2.8 per cent to 180,100.

Auckland International Airport, the country's biggest gateway, is targeting growth from Asia, and China in particular, saying the region is set to provide the biggest growth in visitor arrivals by 2020. It believes China has the potential to generate more than 430,000 arrivals by 2020.


The majority of tourists visiting New Zealand came from Australia up 4.4 per cent to 1.7 million, followed by the United Kingdom on 198,384.

New Zealand residents departed on 208,000 overseas trips in September 2012, compared with 167,400 in September 2011 and 210,000 in September 2010. Last year's figure was lower due to people staying home for the Rugby World Cup, and a change in the timing of school holidays, the government department said.

The country reported a seasonally adjusted net inflow of 100 migrants in the month. The annual net outflow of migrants was 3,300 in the year ended Sept. 30.

Kiwis continued to quit the country for Australia in September, with 3,200 New Zealanders packing their bags for across the ditch. Net outflows to Australia have remained relatively stable since March 2011 averaging at around 3,300 per month.