International tourist arrivals fell 8.3 per cent in April from the previous month, providing more evidence on how severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) is hurting New Zealand's tourism industry.

Compared with April last year, visitor numbers rose 5 per cent, but they were boosted by Easter holidays falling in April, not March, this year.

The figures, issued by Statistics New Zealand yesterday, mirror what is happening in Australia. Tourist arrivals there fell 11 per cent in April from the previous month.

Air New Zealand is also suffering a downturn in demand from Sars.

The airline said its passenger load factors fell by 5.7 percentage points in April compared with the same month last year. Total capacity was up 13.7 per cent.

Air New Zealand has reduced capacity on routes to Asia until the end of September because of the fall in demand.

Statistics New Zealand figures showed New Zealand's Asian markets were hurt the most with the number of visitors from Asia down 26.8 per cent on April last year.

This included Japan where visitor numbers fell 17.4 per cent, Taiwan 65.2 per cent, Korea 36.2 per cent and China 28.9 per cent.

Tourist numbers from the US were also down, by 9.7 per cent. New Zealand's key markets, Australia and Britain rose 28.1 per cent and 47.3 per cent respectively.

- NZPA

Herald Feature: SARS

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