Visitors flocking to NZ in record numbers

By Abby Gillies

Chinese visitors usually opted to book package deals or tours of New Zealand, with the Bay of Islands, Rotorua (above) and Queenstown. Photo / The Daily Post/Instagram
Chinese visitors usually opted to book package deals or tours of New Zealand, with the Bay of Islands, Rotorua (above) and Queenstown. Photo / The Daily Post/Instagram

Visitors flocked to New Zealand in record numbers last month, with Chinese tourists showing the biggest increase.

Arrivals in April reached 200,600 - up 3 per cent from the same time last year and surpassing the previous record April high of 197,800, according to Statistics New Zealand.

The number of tourists from China showed the biggest change, with 6600 more last month compared to the previous April, most of whom were holidaymakers.

Travel agents said Chinese visitors usually opted to book package deals or tours of New Zealand, with the Bay of Islands, Rotorua and Queenstown popular features of their itineraries.

China Southern Airlines launched a direct daily air service between China and New Zealand in 2011, which has contributed to the growing number of Chinese holidaymakers here.

Air New Zealand is also now flying daily to Shanghai.

In the past year, there have been 2.616 million visitors to New Zealand, made up of a growing number of tourists from China and Australia, but fewer from the United Kingdom, Malaysia, France, and South Africa.

The early timing of Easter this year had not had a detrimental effect on tourist numbers, said Statistics New Zealand population statistics manager Andrea Blackburn.

"This year Easter fell in March, compared with early April last year. As a result, visitor arrivals this April were down in the first week of the month, but well up during the rest of the month," she said.

The figures follow Prime Minister John Key's visit to China last month, during which he urged more New Zealand students here to consider learning Mandarin, saying our growing relationship with China needed to be backed up with investment in helping Kiwi kids speak the language.

The argument against teaching Mandarin was that there were not enough teachers "but I think that's not a very strong argument", he said at the time.

Education expert Dame Wendy Pye recently supported the Prime Minister's comments, saying it should be compulsory for all New Zealand primary schools to offer children a chance to learn Mandarin.

"What I'm suggesting is that we need to basically embrace ... [and] understand it," she said.

Statistics New Zealand figures also showed that in the year to April 2013, New Zealand residents left on 2.1 million overseas trips - up 2 per cent from the previous year.

The biggest increase was in trips to the United States, helped by a more favourable currency exchange rate.

- APNZ

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