The number of short-term arrivals rose to a seven-year high for the month of June as a flood of Australians and Chinese tourists came to visit last month.
Some 151,100 people came to New Zealand for a short-term visit in the month of June, the most for that month since 2005 when the British and Irish Lions toured the nation, Statistics New Zealand said. That was 15 per cent more than in June last year, when flights were cancelled by the Chilean volcanic ash cloud. Annual short-term arrivals rose 5.4 per cent to 2.6 million from a year earlier.
The increase was led by a 25 per cent gain in the number of Australian visitors to 64,800, of which 29 per cent were kiwis living across the Ditch, and a 7.4 per cent increase in the number of Chinese tourists to 6,700.
ASB Bank economist Daniel Smith said the positive net inflow during June, following on from May's result, suggested a turnaround in net migration flows could be underway.
"However, it very much remains to be seen if the very strong permanent arrivals numbers will continue. The relative performance of the NZ and Australian labour markets will be a key driver over the next year or so, especially as the Christchurch rebuild gains momentum," said Smith.
An increase in inflows of migrants would also maintain pressure on the housing market, where issues of limited housing supply were "already starting to bite."
The New Zealand tourism industry would be pleased with the stabilisation in visitor arrivals numbers this year, with June result particularly strong, said Smith. New Zealand would need to focus on courting visitors from Asia and Australia as arrivals from the UK and Europe continued to dry up.
The figures come after national carrier Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe this week told MPs not enough is being done to promote the country as an attractive destination. The tourism sector has been in the doldrums since the global financial crisis in 2008, when financial markets collapsed and oil prices surged, causing widespread unemployment and eroding people's discretionary spending on long-haul travel.
New Zealanders continued to quit the country for Australia in June, with 1,029 more people leaving than arriving.
There was a net outflow of 1,029 migrants in June, smaller than 1,491 a year earlier, taking the annual outflow to 3,191, turning around an inflow of 3,867.