New Zealand Holiday

Asian visitors to New Zealand drops amid influenza A(H1N1) fears

Asian visitors to New Zealand drops amid influenza A(H1N1) fears

The number of Asian tourists visiting New Zealand has plummeted due to swine flu fears, officials said Tuesday. The numbers of visitors from China, Japan and South Korea fell by half in June compared with the same month last year as the influenza A(H1N1) virus spread in New Zealand and elsewhere.

“Experience with past shocks, like SARs and September 11, meant we knew that arrivals from our Asian markets would likely be badly hit by the swine flu outbreak,” Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said.

Visitor numbers from Japan fell 67 percent to 2,300 last month from June last year, the lowest number of arrivals from there since June 1985, Statistics New Zealand said Tuesday. In the same month the number of visitors from China fell 49.4 percent to 2,556 and South Korean tourist numbers dropped 48.5 percent to 3,114. Overall, the number of Asian visitors fell 37.4 percent to 17,982 in June compared with a year earlier.

Hickton said it was hoped that some of the earlier threatened cancellations from Asia could be turned into postponements in coming months. “Fortunately, our offshore offices are picking up some more positive signals for later this year,” he said. “We are hoping China will start to improve from September, and the outlook for Japan is also looking slightly better for the first time in many months.”

The impact of the global economic crisis has also hurt tourism, which provides one in 10 New Zealand jobs and nearly 10 percent of gross domestic product. The main Asian markets were among the worst affected in the year to June, with the number of visitors from South Korea falling 31 percent from the previous year to 61,733, Japan by 23 percent to 88,474 and China 13.2 percent to 107,541.

Overall, the number of tourists in the year fell three percent to 2.41 million and numbers for the month of June were 135,200, down five percent from a year earlier. The falls in the numbers of Asian visitors has been partly offset by more Australians visiting their neighbouring country. In the year to June the number of Australian visitors rose four percent to 1.01 million.