International visitors back with a bang

International visitors back with a bang

Written by Madeleine Melin

Posted on Friday 10 March 2023

After a couple of very tough years for our visitor sector, the very welcome, faster than expected, return of our international visitors we have seen over the summer is backed up by latest statistics.  

Visitor spend data (MBIE, February 2023) shows Nelson Tasman visitor spending in December 2022 returned to above pre-Covid levels, with international visitors back with a bang. 

Domestic visitors spent $30.8m in Nelson Tasman in December 2022 vs $27.2m in 2019, while international visitors spent $11.7m (vs $11.4 in 2019). This follows a good result in November and brings an annual total visitor spend of $299m for the year to December 2022, comparing well to the pre-Covid year to December 2019 which was $291m. 

The Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA) points to latest figures which also highlight a strong bounce back and the continued importance of the visitor sector to our overall regional economy: Infometrics have just released GDP and employment figures for the year ended March 2022, showing that despite lingering Covid-related issues, the Visitor Sector contributed 3.8% of our total regional GDP and 7.3% of our employment. To put it into perspective, that is a bigger GDP contribution than Education and Training, and more jobs than Transport Postal and Warehousing and Public Administration put together. Pre Covid the visitor sector contributed 4.6% to our GDP. In 2020, in the midst of COVID, that fell to 3.6%. 

Fiona Wilson, CE of NRDA says that “Looking back to the Covid-restricted summer of 2021/22, we saw a very welcome significant increase in domestic visitation and spending, and this went a long way towards offsetting the lack of international visitation. That unusual situation has reverted back to a more normal pattern and thus the return of international visitor spend is very significant,”

Tracee Nielson, Visitor Destination Manager, says that while this is good news for operators, hospitality and accommodation providers, visitors bring more to the region than just their wallets. “It is not just about the money visitors spend while in the region, visitors bring a wonderful sense of vibrancy too”, Neilson says.

“We know this news gives our operators some optimism, and you only need to look at town to notice the increase in foot traffic and people in the region,” Neilson says. 

Fiona Wilson adds that “building resilience in the sector and extending the season is key - It is great to share some good news, but we know that these results must be taken in the context of the relatively high inflation of the last 6 to 9 months, and the much-increased input costs our tourism and retail businesses are struggling with, like other sectors.  The August flood events highlighted how quickly and heavily this sector can be negatively impacted and our deep sympathies go to the communities in the north dealing with the impacts of such devastation”.