NZ visitor numbers static but spending down

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A ground-breaking report into New Zealand’s tourism industry raises concerns over tourist spending, customer service and new markets. 

The report, State of the Tourism Sector 2011, was prepared by the Tourism Industry Association and Lincoln University, in Canterbury, for today’s (Wednesday) Tourism Summit in Wellington. 

Operators told researchers that though visitor numbers are constant, spending and profitability are down. 

Good-spending British visitors were down in number, but there was growth in lesser-spending Australians. 

The Australian market now accounts for 45 per cent of international visitor arrivals but Australian spending per person was 12.4 per cent less in the year to December 2010 than the year before. 

Many stayed with friends and relatives and hired their own cars. 

The report says since the global financial crisis international visitors are expecting more for less and a discount mentality had developed. 

The average visitor spend had decreased for NZ’s top five markets. 

But Kiwis were even more price-sensitive. 

“Kiwis do not like paying for attractions,” one operator reported. 

Kiwis felt NZ tourism experiences were “pricey”. 

The report also refers to a belief that tourism is a low-paid industry so it doesn’t attract the best quality staff. 

One operator reports: “We get by on that Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ attitude which is quite endearing – but if you are paying a lot of money for something you expect to be incredibly well treated.” 

That was especially the case with food and accommodation. 

Not surprisingly the report addresses the growth in new markets, particularly China and India. 

A key issue for the China market, it says, is that “the flow-on effect to the South Island has not been evident”. 

It notes changes in the China market – specifically “the new Chinese visitor” who prefers more in-depth, theme tours rather than the traditional package tour. 

However there’s “some concern…that if NZ tourism was to become too concentrated on the Chinese and Indian markets it would put off other customers”. 

A query is raised as to who should educate the industry about new markets and their needs. 

But the report also says many in the industry hope the old markets will still be around so they don’t have make changes to their current businesses. 

“There was also a considerable amount of talk about needing to make changes or to do things to accommodate new markets, with very few suggestions as to who might make these changes, and how they might be done.”

The potential for “new products” to care for new markets wasn’t discussed as a concrete suggestion by operators beyond recognising that Asian markets liked to “shop more”.

State of the Tourism Sector 2011