Is New Zealand’s Tourism Sector Recovering?

Default Profile ImageBen O'Connell
Tourism Recovery

Tourism and Hospitality Minister Matt Doocey says the recent International Visitor Survey results show that tourism is continuing to rebound in New Zealand.

“For the year ending December 2023, international visitors spent $9.9 billion in New Zealand.

Doocey says this shows that the tourism industry is continuing to recover after last week’s confirmation that international tourism is back as our second-largest export earner.

“While the economy faces significant challenges, tourism will play a critical role in our recovery.

“Rebounding international tourism is fantastic news for communities and businesses who directly benefit from visitor spend.

“With flight capacity expected to increase and businesses scaling up, the future is looking positive for tourism.”

“Survey results show that 90 percent of visitors were satisfied or very satisfied with their visit to New Zealand,” the minister says.

Doocey says that these results can be attributed to the many dedicated people working in our tourism and hospitality businesses who deliver world-class experiences.

For the year ending December 2023, there were 2.96 million overseas visitor arrivals, which is around 76 per cent of the overseas visitor arrivals for the year ending December 2019.

Tourism spending remains high, with the median spend per international visitor approaching 2019 levels, and German visitors spend the most during their stay.

The International Visitor Survey (IVS) annually measures the expenditure, characteristics and behaviours of international visitors to New Zealand.

Tourism Recovery Challenges

While there’s a positive trend in New Zealand’s tourism rebound, signs indicate it’s not a complete recovery yet.

These signs include the lingering effects of global travel restrictions, changes in consumer behaviour post-pandemic, and economic uncertainties affecting discretionary spending.

Increased operational costs and labour shortages also hinder the full-scale resumption of services and experiences integral to New Zealand’s world-stage image.

Despite these hurdles, the sector shows resilience, with innovative approaches to attracting visitors, including focusing on sustainable tourism and enhancing digital engagement.

However, reaching pre-pandemic international visitors and revenue levels might require more time and strategic efforts.

Current Tourism Trends


Restrictions on international travel during the pandemic fuelled a surge in domestic tourism, which is likely to stay strong. Kiwis themselves are exploring their backyard more than ever.

Eco-tourism is a primary focus, with visitors increasingly interested in responsible travel that minimises environmental impact. Experiences that connect tourists with nature and Māori culture are in high demand.

New Zealand’s reputation for adventure activities remains a major draw. Activities like bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and trekking continue to be popular.

High-end tourism is another growing trend. Visitors seek unique and luxurious experiences, like staying in secluded lodges or indulging in gourmet food and wine tours.

Efforts are underway to distribute visitors evenly throughout the country, encouraging exploration beyond the usual tourist hotspots. This helps reduce congestion in popular areas and supports regional economies.

The tourism industry is embracing digital tools to enhance the visitor experience. Online booking platforms, mobile apps, and contactless payments are becoming increasingly common.

New Zealand remains a top travel destination with its stunning scenery, diverse landscapes, and unique culture.

The tourism industry is adapting to meet travellers’ evolving needs. It is focusing on sustainability, unique experiences, and leveraging digital technologies to ensure a memorable visitor experience.