Tourism in New Zealand

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Milford Sound, one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations.[1]
Hills above the Whanganui River
Bungee jumping has become a popular activity in the resort town of Queenstown.

Tourism in New Zealand comprised an important sector of the national economy prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand in 2020 – tourism directly contributed NZ$16.2 billion (or 5.8%) of the country's GDP in the year ended March 2019.[2] As of 2016 tourism supported 188,000 full-time-equivalent jobs (nearly 7.5% of New Zealand's workforce). The flow-on effects of tourism indirectly contributed a further 4.3% of GDP (or NZ$9.8 billion). Despite the country's geographical isolation, spending by international tourists accounted for 17.1% of New Zealand's export earnings (nearly NZ$12 billion). International and domestic tourism contributed, in total, NZ$34 billion to New Zealand's economy every year as of 2017.[3]

New Zealand markets itself abroad as a "clean, green" adventure-playground (Tourism New Zealand's main marketing slogan, "100% Pure New Zealand", reflects this), emphasising as typical tourist destinations nature areas such as Milford Sound, Abel Tasman National Park and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; while activities such as bungee jumping or whale watching exemplify typical tourist attractions, often[quantify] marketed primarily to individual and small-group travellers. Australia provides by far the largest group of New Zealand's international tourists (about 45%), due to its close proximity (3-4 hours by plane) and traditional good relations. Mainland China, the United States and the United Kingdom are the next three largest markets.

The Sky Tower, a popular attraction in Auckland, serves as an observation tower as well as featuring a revolving restaurant.[4]

The vast majority of international tourist arrivals to New Zealand come through Auckland Airport, which handled nearly fifteen million passengers in 2013.[citation needed] Two percent of visitors arrived by sea as of 2009.[5] Many international tourists spend time in Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown, Rotorua, and Wellington.[6] Other high-profile destinations include the Bay of Islands, the Waitomo Caves, Aoraki / Mount Cook, and Milford Sound. Many tourists travel considerable distances through the country during their stays, typically using coach lines or hired cars. Though some destinations have seasonal specialities (for winter sports, for example), New Zealand's southern-hemisphere location offers attractions for off-peak northern-hemisphere tourists chasing or avoiding certain seasons. In June 2018 the New Zealand government announced the imposition of a "tourist tax" of around NZ$25 to NZ$35 for international visitors, excluding Australians, many Pacific islanders, and young children. It planned to implement this taxation in 2019 through a newly proposed electronic travel-registration process.[7][8]

Domestic tourism is also important, though expenditure and trip numbers declined or stagnated[when?] in the face of[clarification needed] fast-growing international tourism.[citation needed] Domestic tourism spending still exceeds that of international tourism; in the year to March 2020, domestic tourists spent $24.4 billion compared to $17.5 billion spent by international tourists.[9]

In November 2012 readers of the UK newspaper The Telegraph voted New Zealand the best country in the world to go to on holiday.[10]

The interaction of the demands of international tourism and aspects of New Zealand's self-perceived national character (such as individualism and classless egalitarianism[11]) can entail contradictions.[12]

International travel[edit]

Air New Zealand plane with The Lord of the Rings livery. The film series, shot in New Zealand, is credited[by whom?] as having raised annual tourism numbers.[13]


Camper vans offer one of the choices for budget travel in New Zealand

The country is internationally seen[by whom?] as a top holiday-destination, as shown by being voted most favourite destination by the readers of the Condé Nast Traveler magazine (specialising in luxury travel) in 2008, though it slipped to second place in 2009.[14] A 2007 Daily Telegraph poll, the United Kingdom's largest such poll, also identified New Zealand as the best overseas holiday destination. Between 2000 (the start of an advertising campaign by Tourism New Zealand) and 2007 the number of Britons visiting New Zealand increased by 61%.[15]

The availability of air travel is a large contributing factor to market growth. After Air New Zealand launched non-stop flights from Auckland to Buenos Aires in December 2015, visitor numbers from Argentina tripled, from 5,400 in 2015 to 15,300 in 2016.[16]

Tourism New Zealand, the country's official tourism agency, actively promotes the country as a destination worldwide. Activities have included a NZ$7 million campaign in China, concentrating on Shanghai,[17] and co-operating to produce a New Zealand tourism layer for Google Earth, the first such country-wide initiative.[18]

Visitors from 60 countries require a New Zealand eTA (NZ eTA) from 1 October 2019.[19][20]

From March 2020 the New Zealand government implemented strict quarantine provisions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the numbers of incoming international visitors dropped dramatically. The tourism sector responded with a strategy of hunker and hope.[21] A brief re-opening of borders with Australia (the "travel bubble") from April 2021 encountered official "pauses" and "suspension" (July 2021) as the Covid Delta variant took hold in different Australian states.[22]

Environmental impacts[edit]

Public concern over the environmental impacts of air travel may threaten tourism growth in New Zealand, as almost all tourists fly long distances to reach New Zealand. However, Ministry of Tourism data in 2007 predicted a four percent annual growth in tourist numbers in New Zealand, with 3.2 million tourists annually to be reached in 2014.[23]

It remains however unclear how New Zealand's carbon-neutral policy will affect future tourism – with some researchers arguing that the carbon emissions of tourism are much higher than generally considered, that their offsetting or mitigation will be very difficult, and that this poses a serious threat to the country's major source of foreign income.[24]

Domestic travel[edit]

The road to Mount Cook

Periodic campaigns are also directed at New Zealanders, urging them to travel within New Zealand instead of overseas, due to a perception by the tourism industry that too many New Zealanders are travelling to Australia or other countries instead of domestically.[25] Perhaps the best-known slogan is "Don't leave town until you've seen the country".[citation needed]

Air travel is a popular way of getting around the country due to the lack of transport alternatives over longer distances (for example, going from Auckland to Napier, a 400 km journey takes an hour by plane[26] compared to nearly five hours by car[27] or seven hours by bus.[28]

Passenger trains are limited to Auckland-Wellington, Picton-Christchurch and Christchurch-Greymouth, scenic daytrip journeys which often cost more than an airfare. Outside of trunk routes connecting main cities (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown), airfares can, due to a lack of competition, cost nearly as much as trips to Australia.[29]

Domestic tourism contributed NZ$14 billion to New Zealand's economy (as of the year ended March 2013). 31 million day trips and 16.6 million overnight trips were made in the year ended December 2012, a decline of 4% and 6% respectively. However, total spending stayed static, with a 2% decline in day trip spending (now at $3.7 billion) offset by a 1% increase in overnight spending (currently NZ$6.2 billion).[citation needed]

Tourist activities[edit]

Queenstown is known for its commerce-oriented tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism.

Popular tourist activities in New Zealand include sightseeing, adventure tourism, tramping (hiking) and camping. To support active travel, New Zealand has numerous walking and hiking paths (often created and maintained by the DOC), some of which, like the Milford Track, have huge international recognition. There is also a walking route the length of the country (Te Araroa) and the New Zealand Cycle Trail.


International markets[edit]

The top countries for international visitor arrivals to New Zealand in terms of their nationality are as follows. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand closed its border to everyone except New Zealand citizens and residents on 19 March 2020.[30]

Country 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Change (%)
 Australia 1,409,200 1,472,160 1,494,541 1,537,988 359,781 Increase 2.9
 United States of America 291,392 330,128 352,074 367,958 124,818 Increase 4.5
 United Kingdom 220,976 249,264 237,166 231,712 94,255 Decrease 2.3
 China, People's Republic of 409,008 417,872 448,189 407,141 58,508 Decrease 9.2
 Germany 96,848 104,864 102,087 98,050 36,671 Decrease 4.0
 Canada 59,760 67,280 71,261 73,037 30,791 Increase 2.5
 Korea, Republic of 82,384 91,168 87,853 88,481 26,326 Increase 0.7
 Japan 100,736 102,048 99,784 97,682 25,784 Decrease 2.1
 India 52,016 61,440 67,953 66,775 18,179 Decrease 1.7
 France 39,728 42,560 43,606 40,777 14,672 Decrease 6.5
 Taiwan 37,056 35,712 44,659 53,453 13,260 Increase 19.7
 Hong Kong (SAR) 44,768 54,688 58,763 53,720 13,125 Decrease 8.6
 Netherlands 26,000 29,248 30,813 30,337 11,861 Decrease 1.5
 Singapore 57,344 58,544 61,464 64,574 9,373 Increase 5.1
Other countries 572,723 616,731 663,004 676,788 158,966 Increase 2.1
Total 3,499,939 3,733,707 3,863,217 3,888,473 996,350 Increase0.7

Australia accounts for 39.6 percent of New Zealand visitor arrivals. Broken down by state, New South Wales accounted for 533,681 visitors in 2019, followed by Queensland with 389,359 visitors, and Victoria with 368,710 visitors.[30]

Of the Top 12 nationalities, all except China and India, are entitled to visa waivers,[31] while all except the United Kingdom, Germany, India, France, and the Netherlands have non-stop flights to New Zealand.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NZ tops Travellers' Choice Awards". Stuff Travel. May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  2. ^ "About the tourism industry". Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  3. ^ "About the industry". November 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  4. ^ Sky Tower Official page - Retrieved 2009-07-04
  5. ^ "International visitors: total" (PDF). Ministry of Tourism. June 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Number of International Visitors who Stayed Overnight in Key NZ Places". Ministry of Economic Development. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  7. ^ "New Zealand to launch £18 'tourist tax' for visitors entering the country". The Independent. Retrieved 26 June 2018. Applying to the majority of travellers, the tax would exclude infants under two years' old, Australian citizens, permanent residents, people from the Pacific Islands Forum countries and individuals on certain visas.
  8. ^ Press, Australian Associated (14 June 2018). "New Zealand to tax tourists to visit – but Australians will get in free". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2018. [...] Australian citizens and permanent residents, people from Pacific Islands Forum countries and children under two will be exempt.
  9. ^ "Tourism satellite account: Year ended March 2020 | Stats NZ". Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  10. ^ "NZ tops UK holiday poll". 3 News NZ. 16 November 2012.
  11. ^ Smith, Thomas B. (1974). The New Zealand Bureaucrat. Wellington: Cheshire. p. 15. ISBN 9780701519179. Retrieved 15 June 2021. Observers of New Zealand's social system have contended that the most dominant cultural value in New Zealand is egalitarianism — the belief that one man is as good as any other, regardless of his position or status in the community.
  12. ^ Compare: Tzanelli, Rodanthi (2013). "Heritage entropy? Cinematic pilrimage in New Zealand (2010)". Heritage in the Digital Era: Cinematic Tourism and the Activist Cause. Volume 93 of Routledge advances in sociology. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 26-27. ISBN 9780415643801. Retrieved 15 June 2021. New Zealand's heritage entropy highlighted its distinctive national character or habitus. [...] Oscillating between ideological fixities and tourist liquidities [...], national habitus comprises the material, embodied and emotional complex of culturally situated attributes [...]. Today, New Zealand's national character is marketed in two seemingly conflicting ways: the first draws on Maori human and natural resources, producing a distinctive ecosystemic discourse that conflates ethic with natural capital; the second capitalizes on the cinematic genres of the LOTR and Narnia.
  13. ^ Pinchefsky, Carol (14 December 2012). "The Impact (Economic and Otherwise) of Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit on New Zealand". Forbes. Retrieved 8 January 2018. Lord of the Rings may have contributed to the economy of New Zealand…but then again, as Anderson said, 'I'm sure Lord of the Rings played a huge part in that, but it wasn't the only factor. [...]'
  14. ^ Harvey, Eveline (4 September 2009). "Travellers name NZ second-best destination". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  15. ^ "UK readers vote NZ best holiday destination". The New Zealand Herald. 1 December 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Argentina". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  17. ^ Hembry, Owen (10 May 2007). "$7m more to sell NZ to China". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  18. ^ Hembry, Owen (12 April 2007). "NZ's 100% Pure and Google Earth in world first". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Information about : NZeTA | Immigration New Zealand". Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  20. ^ "eTA New Zealand | Official New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZ eTA)". eTA New Zealand. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  21. ^ Tourism Industry Aotearoa (5 May 2020). "Alarming Impact Of COVID-19 On Tourism Industry Revealed". Business. Scoop. Retrieved 28 July 2021. Tourism Industry Aotearoa [...] conducted [a] survey of its 1600 members to provide a comprehensive assessment of how tourism businesses are navigating the crisis. [...] 78% of respondents are taking major steps to adapt their businesses to the changed operating environment, including one third of businesses (33%) indicating they are going into hibernation for the foreseeable future. 40% are sharply reducing business size and capacity, and 21% are scrambling for capital in order to survive.
  22. ^ Frost, Natasha (23 July 2021). "The bubble bursts: New Zealand suspends quarantine-free travel from Australia". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2021. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand ordered a pause on quarantine-free travel from Australia for at least eight weeks, citing coronavirus surges caused by the Delta variant that have left more than half of Australia under lockdown.
  23. ^ Hembry, Owen (3 September 2007). "NZ tourism strikes long-haul snag". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  24. ^ "Carbon policy spells end of tourism bonanza". National Business Review. 4 January 2008. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  25. ^ South, Gill (16 September 2007). "Stay in NZ, urges tourism industry". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  26. ^][dead link]
  27. ^ "Google Maps".
  28. ^ "InterCity® // Bus Tickets From $1 // NZ's National Network".
  29. ^ "Sky high fares". The New Zealand Herald.
  30. ^ a b "International travel: December 2019". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  31. ^ "Visa waiver countries - Immigration New Zealand".

External links[edit]