People visiting New Zealand are rising and they are spending more but it remains to be seen if earthquake last November will have an effect on numbers, official figures suggest.

Overall, tourism spending continued to grow throughout most regions in the year to November 2016, providing a solid base ahead of the high summer season, according to Tourism Minister Paula Bennett.

New Zealand Plane
The Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), show that the fastest growing region was Nelson, up 15% over the year to $337 million, followed by Otago up 14% to $3.5 billion and the West Coast up 11% to $475 million.

‘Tourism spending has continued its growth trend over this year, and it’s great to see spending so strong before the summer season when tourist numbers are at their highest,’ Bennett pointed out.

‘The latest data shows that, overall, the earthquake on 14 November had a limited impact on national tourism expenditure. However it had a significant impact on the total visitor spend in the North Canterbury region,’ she explained, adding

The New Zealand Government has already announced a number of support packages for the earthquake affected areas, underlining our commitment to supporting the local tourism industry.

‘As the earthquake occurred midway through November, the full impacts on the regional economies in affected areas are not completely shown. The data for the month of December, will give a clearer indication of how tourism spending has been affected, Bennett added.

Indeed, the figures show that tourism spending in North Canterbury saw a 20% fall in tourism spending in November 2016 compared with November 2015. International visitors’ spending in North Canterbury fell 29% while domestic visitor spending fell 13%.

In areas adjacent to North Canterbury, Marlborough fell 1% but Christchurch increased by 1% and South Canterbury grew a strong 12%.

Meanwhile, the Government is investing $3 million to help make state highways on key tourist routes in Otago, Southland and the West Coast safer this summer. About $1 million will be spent in each region on road safety works such as no-passing lines, keep left arrows, rest area and curve sign upgrades, and new safety barriers.

Parliament has also agreed to reinstate the coastal route to Kaikoura which was badly damaged by the earthquake and additional funding of up to $2 billion will be provided to speed up the process but it could still take a year just to provide limited access.