New Zealand accommodation providers hosted a record number of guest in the year to the end of February, reinforcing suggestions the sector could do with more capacity.
A record 39.6 million guest nights were spent in short-term commercial accommodation in the year ended February 2018, up 2.8 percent on the same period a year earlier and more than any other 12-month period, Statistics New Zealand said. International guest nights lifted 5 percent to 17.4 million, making up 44 percent of total guest nights, while domestic stays advanced 1.1 percent to 22.2 million.
The country's accommodation sector has been on a tear, helped by record levels of tourism and migration, prompting a flurry of hotel developments throughout the country.
For the month of February, guest nights increased 2.1 percent to 4 million from the same month a year earlier. International guest nights rose 6.6 percent to 2.1 million, while domestic guest nights fell 2.4 percent to 1.9 million, marking the first time in eight years that international guest numbers have surpassed domestic numbers. The statistics agency said international arrivals were boosted by guests visiting over Chinese New Year, which was in mid-February this year, compared with late January in 2017.
February guest nights lifted 6.6 percent to 1.8 million in the South Island, but fell 1.4 percent to 2.2 million in the North Island.
"International guest nights were up the most in the South Island, with large increases for nights spent in Christchurch, Queenstown-Lakes, Kaikōura, Southland, and Dunedin," accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said. "Kaikōura's increase, and to a lesser extent Christchurch's, reflects recovery from the lower volume of guest nights that followed the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake."
"New Zealanders spent fewer nights in holiday park and motel accommodation than last February, possibly reflecting Kiwis delaying their travel plans to wait out cyclones Gita and Fehi," she said. "Locals are typically more likely to change their plans at short notice than international guests."
Hotel stays increased 5.6 percent to 1.3 million in February compared with the year earlier, while motel stays increased 1.3 percent to 1.2 million and holiday park stays edged up 0.6 percent to 927,000. Backpacker stays fell 1.8 percent to 541,000.
The occupancy rate across accommodation types lifted to 57.5 percent from 57 percent a year earlier. That's the second highest rate in the history of the survey after January this year hit a record 58.7 percent.
Hotel occupancy hit an all-time high of 81.8 percent, while motel occupancy of 76.8 percent was the highest since February 2017's record 77.5 percent. Meanwhile, backpacker occupancy levels slipped to 59.1 percent from 59.4 percent a year earlier and holiday park occupancy advanced to 30 percent from 29.6 percent a year earlier.