Growth in tourist accommodation slowed in December as international guests spent fewer nights in the North Island, according to Stats NZ.
Total guest nights rose to almost 4.2 million that month, 1.4 percent more than a year earlier. But that was less than half the increase posted in October and November and about a third of the increase seen in the final quarter of 2017.
Domestic travellers spent 2.29 million nights in hotels, motels, backpackers and holiday parks in December, 3.4 percent more than a year earlier.
But international guest nights fell 0.9 percent to almost 1.91 million, led by a 2.8 percent decline in their time in North Island accommodation. They spent 1.01 million nights in the South Island, up 0.9 percent from December the year before.
December and January are typically the busiest months for the country’s accommodation providers, who have benefited from strong ongoing tourism growth in recent years. Total guest nights in 2018 increased to 40.4 million, up 2.3 percent, with about 44 percent of those down to international visitors.
But the pace of that growth may be slowing, with international visitor nights in June, July and December falling from the year before. January and February are typically the biggest months for international travellers.
Some regions also showing signs of plateauing. December guest nights in the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast, and the West Coast declined from the year before; Canterbury and Southland posted the biggest percentage gains.
For 2018, Canterbury and Otago posted the biggest gains at 8.8 percent and 3.9 percent respectively. Northland, Bay of Plenty and the West Coast were flat; Hawkes Bay and Tasman/Marlborough posted modest declines.
While growth may be slowing, hotel occupancy remains high, Stats NZ said.
Almost 1,600 more hotel rooms were available in December than a year earlier. Despite that, occupancy fell only slightly from 69.8 percent in 2017, to 69.2 percent in 2018.
Accommodation and construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said annual occupancy rates hovered around 55 percent throughout the 2000s, but rose steadily from 2012 to almost 70 percent in recent years.
“The number of hotel rooms available in New Zealand fell after the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011,” McKenzie said. “Hotel capacity is now around pre-earthquake levels, supported by recovery in Canterbury, as well as more rooms opening up in other parts of the country.”