This update combines the May 2023 data releases for:
Note that figures from the releases may not align fully due to them measuring different activities, data limitations, and wider economic factors. More information regarding these data releases can be found here:
Tourism data releases - Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
Key points for May 2023
Tourism card spend figures in May 2023 continued to surpass pre-COVID May 2019 levels for both domestic and international markets. International spend growth from pre-COVID has accelerated, and the international visitor volume gap from pre-COVID has been narrowing, possibly due to pent-up demand. However, the growth in domestic spend and guest nights from pre-COVID levels has slowed down, possibly due to elevated cost of living, resulting in less disposable income for tourism activities.
Accommodation Data Programme (ADP)
- Total guest nights still down from pre-COVID levels — Nationwide, core tourism accommodation providers hosted 2.4 million guest nights in May 2023, down 6% from May 2019 levels. The decline in total guest nights relative to pre-COVID levels has been consistent over the last three months.
- Domestic guest nights still up, international guest nights still down from pre-COVID levels — Domestic guest nights totalled 1.7 million (72% of the total guest nights) in May 2023. These were up 9% from May 2019 levels. The rise in domestic guest nights relative to pre-COVID levels has been decelerating over the last three months from 16% in March 2023, possibly due to elevated cost of living, resulting in less disposable income for tourism activities. International guest nights in May 2023 were down 30% from May 2019 levels, consistent with what was recorded over the last three months.
- Proportionally, Clutha led most Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) in both domestic and international guest nights’ growth on pre-COVID levels — Compared to May 2019, Clutha (up 97%) and Fiordland (up 92%) showed the strongest proportional increases in domestic guest nights relative to other RTOs, while Ruapehu (up 73%) and Clutha (up 39%) showed the highest proportional growth in international guest nights.
- Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin had the highest occupancy rates — Auckland (64%) and Wellington (63%) as well as Dunedin (63%) RTOs recorded the highest occupancy rates, well above the national average (46%) in May 2023.
- High occupancy rates in motels and apartments with more than 20 units, and hotels — Motels and apartments with more than 20 units had the highest occupancy rate (65%) among all types of properties in May 2023. It was followed by hotels (63%). Backpackers was the property with the strongest growth (up 1.7 times) in occupancy rate compared to May 2022, most likely as a result of having more international visitors and budget-conscious travellers after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tourism Electronic Card Transactions (TECTs)
- Domestic TECT spend still saw an increase from pre-COVID levels — Nationwide, domestic TECT spend in May 2023 was up 13% from May 2019 levels. The rise in domestic spend relative to pre-COVID levels has been decelerating over the last three months, from 19% in March 2023.
- International TECT spend still improved from pre-COVID levels — International TECT spend in May 2023 was up 14% from May 2019 levels, higher than the 5% increase on pre-COVID recorded for April 2023.
- Monthly Australian spend still down from pre-COVID levels — Top spender in May 2023 was Australia, down 13% on pre-COVID levels, an improvement from the 17% fall on pre-COVID levels recorded for the previous month. It was followed by the USA (up 49%, higher than the 38% growth on pre-COVID levels recorded for the previous month).
Monthly Unique Regional Population Estimates (MURPEs)
- Domestic visitor volume continued to surpass pre-COVID levels — Nationwide, estimated unique domestic visitors totalled 2 million in May 2023, up 8% from May 2019 levels but lower than the 15% increase on pre-COVID levels recorded for April 2023. Among the RTOs, Gisborne (up 51%) and Mackenzie (up 42%) saw the greatest proportional increases on pre-COVID levels in domestic visitor volume, while Coromandel (down 23%) and Nelson Tasman (down 8%) saw the greatest proportional decreases.
- International visitor volume continued to experience a decrease from pre-COVID levels — Nationwide, estimated unique international visitors totalled 330,000 in May 2023. The gap to pre-COVID levels of international visitors has been narrowing over the last four months, from 29% in February 2023 to 13% in May 2023. Among the RTOs, Manawatu and Wellington showed the strongest proportional rises (up 12%) from pre-COVID levels in international visitor volume, while Coromandel (down 57%) and Timaru (down 49%) showed the strongest proportional falls.
TECT data quality has been improved
In this release, a portion of unknown-origin cards is reclassified as domestic spending rather than international spending. Background research and analysis suggested that these cards’ values and purchase behaviour patterns are more aligned with those of most domestic cardholders. The decision was made to prioritise data quality. The update has been applied to the entire time series for consistency. As a result, the total volume of historical international spending will be lower than previously reported.
MURPE data’s issues have been fixed
Since January 2023, we have identified unusual trends and inconsistencies in the MURPE data. Our data provider investigated and identified two errors: (1) some cell towers were not mapped to RTOs, resulting in an ‘unknown RTO’ issue and inaccurate estimations; and (2) non-mobile devices with cellular capability were counted as mobile devices. The two problems have been resolved. Prior to the release of this data, quality checks, outlier identification, comparator analyses, and sense checking were completed. The entire MURPE data series has been fully quality-checked and updated until the end of May 2023.
MURPEs stakeholder report - Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre
Only certain measures in the ADP can be compared to the Accommodation Survey
This update compares May 2023 to May 2019 for TECTs and ADP. Due to methodological differences between the ADP and the Accommodation Survey, only aggregated volume figures, such as guest nights, are compared at the national or RTO level.
Caution should be used with the TECT data
Domestic and international figures are not adjusted for inflation and seasonality. They should also be used separately and not added together. This is because electronic card transactions in each market represent a different proportion of total tourism spend, meaning they cannot be directly compared. More information can be found here.
Tourism Electronic Card Transactions – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
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TECT, ADP, and MURPE data for June 2023 will be released in August 2023.
See our tourism data release calendar with release dates to September 2023.
Data release calendar - Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment