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New Zealand tourism bounces back from SARS

New Zealand tourism is bouncing back after a 100 million NZ dollars…

New Zealand tourism is bouncing back after a 100 million NZ dollars (about 62 million US dollars) hit from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Asia last year, with 30,000 more tourists in May than the same month last year.

Tourism Minister Mark Burton said in a statement Tuesday that Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) figures illustrated a strong sector recovery in the wake of last year`s SARS outbreak, particularly in the Asian market.

The figures show outstanding growth in key markets, with Asia up 82 percent, Australia up 23 percent, and the United States up 12 percent.

International visitors spent almost 6.4 billion NZ dollars (about 4 billion US dollars) in New Zealand in the last calendar year, making tourism one of the country`s biggest business sectors.

But tourist numbers from most Asian markets were cut in half in the middle of last year because of SARS, squeezing tourist industry profits. It has taken many months to recover.

SNZ figures, released on Monday, also show that migration to New Zealand continued to slow, but this was in line with Reserve Bank expectations. At the peak, more than 42,000 net new migrants arrived in the year to May 2003. In the latest May year it was down to 24,000.

There were a net 1,420 new arrivals last month. New Zealand Deutsche Bank senior economist Darren Gibbs said he expected underlying migration to fall to 1,000 a month by the end of December, resulting in a slowdown in the housing and construction sectors.

SNZ figures show international visitor numbers last month topped 132,000 — up 29 percent, or about 30,000, over May last year.

SARS cost a year of growth, Tourism Industry Association Chief Executive John Moriarty said after SNZ released the figures.

In May 2002, almost 38,000 Asian visitors came to New Zealand. SARS slashed that almost in half to just under 20,000 in 2003. This May there were slightly more than 36,000 Asian visitors.

Moriarty said the fall in May last year equated to about 24 million NZ dollars (about 14.8 million US dollars) lost to the industry in one month.

The impact of the SARS crisis was spread over several months, so overall the industry`s revenue was at least 100 million NZ dollars less than it would have been without SARS, he said.

The downturn had squeezed profits and some tourism operators who relied totally on Asian tourists suffered badly, with a coupleof company failures, Moriarty said.

However, Wellington Tourism Chief Executive Tim Cossar said thecity had a record 500,000 international tourists in the last calendar year, up 20 percent on the previous year.

Wellington is more reliant on travellers from Australia, the United States and Britain than Asian package tours, so it was not hit hard in the SARS slump.

Early this year was also looking pretty strong and was expected to continue, he said. All of us have been experiencing good growth out of Australia on the back of increase air capacity and lower fares.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton said SARS had a major impact last year, but overall the industry was experiencing record growth with visitor numbers reaching 2.2 million for the May year for the first time.

Tourism Minister Mark Burton has praised New Zealand tourism industry for strong government and sector partnerships. We will keep working with the sector to build a truly sustainable tourism sector which balances tourism`s economic benefits with the care, protection, and enhancement of our natural and made environments, he said.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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