Chilean ash cloud casts dark shadow over tourism numbers

Tourism is one of Aotearoa’s biggest earners, so when volcanoes erupt halfway around the world, it tends to cast a bit of a pall over our pulling power.

International tourist numbers were significantly down last month and we have the Chilean ash cloud to thank for that.

In what Statistics New Zealand says was a “challenging” month, international arrivals fell 10 percent in June to 131,269 when compared to the same month in 2010. Fortunately, we’re on par for the year to date (2,501,303 international visitors compared to 2,501,264 the previous year).

“A number of flights to and from New Zealand were cancelled from 12 June onwards, due to the ash cloud,” Population Statistics manager Andrea Blackburn says.

June arrivals fell in key markets including Australia (down 14.9 per cent), UK (down 19.1 per cent) and US (down 9.7 per cent), while China (up 22.5 per cent), Malaysia (up 47.1 per cent) and Singapore (up 18.6 per cent) maintained their growth on the back of increased aviation links. June arrivals from Germany were also up 13.2 per cent.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says the decline in arrivals from our top three visitor markets was disappointing but not unexpected.

“Given the Trans-Tasman flight disruption caused by the Chilean ash cloud from 12 June and the late start to our snow season, the Australian figures do not come as a surprise.

New Zealand’s cred as a sparkling paradise took a bit of a beating a couple of months ago when the BBC’s Hardtalk tore into Prime Minister John Key about our pollution problems.

But Tourism NZ quickly launched a new digital campaign, 100% Pure You, to try and attract more “active considerers” to the country. How much of a drawcard that proves to be, though, remains to be seen.

Bowler says New Zealand has had more than its fair share of natural events impacting visitor arrivals.

“However I am optimistic that July will see a return to the levels of growth we have been witnessing in recent months from the Australian market.

“The increased number of visitors from China, Malaysia and Singapore continue to partially offset the declines from UK and the US which again reflects the increasing importance of the Asian region.

“Maintaining annual growth from China (up 25.2 per cent), Malaysia (up 33.6 per cent) and Singapore (up 6.2 per cent) is fundamental to ensuring a positive summer period for our industry, particularly in light of the continued challenging US and UK environments.”

Kiwis also made fewer sojourns in June; short-term trips were down 3 percent. Australia, the UK and US recorded fewer NZ visitors, while popular destinations were Thailand, the Cook Islands, Malaysia, and Fiji.




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