Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

More tourists from Asia, America

Tourists are spending more money per year in New Zealand than previously believed. Photo / Thinkstock
Tourists are spending more money per year in New Zealand than previously believed. Photo / Thinkstock

Middle-earth mania, strong marketing campaigns and economic growth have been credited as reasons for an increase in tourists from Asia and the Americas, according to a new survey.

However, without the lure of major events such as the Rugby World Cup, visitor numbers from the United Kingdom and Africa have fallen in the last year.

The latest International Visitor Survey, with results for the year ending September, was released today by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

It found a boost of Asian and American tourists and a drop in those travelling here from Britain and Africa.

A spokeswoman for tourist operator AJ Hackett said they had noticed a big increase in the number of Asian tourists - "particularly from China".

"We definitely see more Chinese through than we have in the past."

There had been a decrease in British customers a few years ago, she said.

"But the last couple of months has been really positive out of the UK - even last year was probably down, but this year it's all pretty positive."

Tourism New Zealand's general manager corporate affairs Chris Roberts said Asia and the Americas had benefited from strong financial growth, resulting in more people being happy to spend their money on travel.

"Arrivals from America have shown growth throughout 2013, following the release of the first Hobbit movie and our focused marketing efforts with our 100 per cent Middle-earth, 100 per cent Pure New Zealand campaign," he said.

Tourism NZ also had target marketing in Asia, especially since direct air routes had opened.

The drop in travellers from Africa compared to the previous year could be explained by the Rugby World Cup hosted by New Zealand, Mr Roberts said.

The lack of a World Cup was also to blame for a decrease in British tourists, he said.

Lincoln University tourism professor David Simmons said tourism was a "luxury good", so growth economies such as Asia's were likely to see an increase in travellers.

As well as the "current economic fortunes" in the UK, New Zealand was also competing with other tourist destinations such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and Hong Kong, he said.

"The world generally has become much more competitive."

The entertainment industry definitely had an influence on where travellers chose to visit, Professor Simmons said.

Movies like The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit have acted for New Zealand in the same way as Braveheart did for Scottish tourism.

"You get exposure to the landscapes and ideas and values (of the country)."

However, Base Backpackers' manager Sam McHardy said the survey did not seem to reflect the customers coming through the hostel accommodation, as a lot of visitors from the UK used their tourist bus service.

"I don't think it's changed at all, to be honest, Not that I've noticed."

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What the tourists say:

* Eilidh MacNicol from Scotland, "I've always been a really big fan of Lord of the Rings, so that obviously helped (in my decision to come here)."

* Maxwell Antliff, from Scotland: "It's a beautiful country. I've never been here before but since I've been here, I've fallen in love with the place."

* Oscar Daulow, from Sweden: "I've seen documentaries and Lord of the Rings and I've just finished my studies, so I thought it was now or never."

* Louise Gammelmark, from Denmark: "We always wanted to come here, because we've just heard a lot of good things about it."

* Morten Yde, from Denmark: "The nature was what we had heard about - and the Alpine trek has been our favourite thing so far."

* John Campbell, from Scotland: "I think people are put off by how far away it is. It costs a lot to get here."

- APNZ

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