International hotel developers are stepping up their interest in New Zealand as guest nights and tourism inflows continue to hit new records, according to Bayleys Real Estate.

"Internationally, travel is becoming easier and more accessible for a greater global population, and the number of people travelling - both from traditional markets like USA and Europe and emerging markets like China and India - continues to increase at a strong pace," said Bayleys director of hotels and tourism Nick Thompson.

New Zealand has been enjoying a booming tourism sector in recent years as low airfares have made it easier for visitors to travel to the remote South Pacific destination and the weakening Kiwi dollar has added to the nation's allure.

Short-term visitor arrivals, which include tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.7 million in the January year, up 5.5 per cent from a year earlier. Data today showed total guest nights increased to 4.97 million in January from 4.9 million a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Hotels, in particular, were sought after with hotel guest nights rising 6 per cent to 1.39 million in January from a year earlier. Hotel occupancy was 74.4 per cent in the month, compared to 72.2 per cent a year earlier.


The latest building data also underscores activity in the sector as a flurry of activity in industrial and commercial accommodation properties such as hotels made up for slower residential construction in the value of New Zealand building work in the fourth quarter.

According to Thompson, both Auckland and Queenstown have been "hotbeds" for international developers. In 2017 Bayleys sold two significant Auckland CBD development sites, one to Australian-based Pro-Invest which is building a new hotel with around 500 rooms, and another to a Singaporean company which will build a hotel with around 350 rooms.

Pro-Invest is also building a 227 bedroom hotel in Queenstown, according to its website.

Thompson did not specify the sale price for the Auckland sites but said they set new benchmarks.

"From these sales we are aware of a number of other developers and operators keen to enter our market to take advantage of the high occupancy rates currently being experienced in the sector," he said.

The demand is not just limited to Auckland and Queenstown as the recently released statistics "improve the equation for development", according to Bayleys.

Today's guest night data showed nine of 12 regions reported an increase in guest nights. The largest increases were in Canterbury, where guest nights lifted 11 per cent on the year to 661,000, and Southland, where they rose 6 per cent to 155,000.