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About 250,000 visitors in New Zealand

An estimated 240,000–260,000 visitors from overseas are in New Zealand as of late March 2020, Stats NZ has released. Of these, about five in six are non-New Zealand citizens while the balance are New Zealand citizens.

“We've derived this provisional estimate to assist with COVID-19 analysis and decision-making,” says population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers.

"The estimate, using international travel data, is an indication of how many overseas visitors may depart in the coming weeks."

The estimate is based on arrivals of overseas visitors in the past 12 months who have not yet departed New Zealand. Overseas visitors are people who had been living overseas for at least the 12 months before they arrived in New Zealand, irrespective of the nationality of their passport, and plan to stay in New Zealand for less than one year.

“This is an estimate of the size of the pool of overseas visitors in New Zealand at a point in time, not the flow of people coming into or leaving the country each week or month,” says Brooke.

“We know the flows in and out of New Zealand have slowed significantly in recent weeks.”

Over recent weeks, governments have imposed international travel restrictions in multiple countries, due to the spread of COVID-19 around the world. On March 19, the New Zealand government took further measures to protect New Zealanders from the COVID-19 virus, effectively stopping all people from boarding a plane to New Zealand, except for returning New Zealanders.

“If and when visitors in New Zealand will return overseas will depend on the availability of flights and their purpose of travel to New Zealand,” says Brooke. "While most visitors to New Zealand are tourists here for a short time, large numbers are also here for work and study over many weeks or months."

In 2019, for example, of the 3.9 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand, one in eight stayed for more than a month.

Monthly averages published by Stats NZ, currently available to January 2020, show that relatively large numbers of overseas visitors are in New Zealand in March each year. In March 2019 there was an average of 242,000 visitors each day and in March 2018 the average was 247,000. The peak is during the summer months of December to February.

Comprehensive international travel statistics for February 2020 and March 2020 are scheduled for release on April 14 and May 14, 2020, respectively, after arrival card data have been processed.

In addition to the above estimate of visitors, 140,000 migrants arrived in New Zealand over the last year.

Some of these people may choose to return to another country.

There are also many New Zealanders with overseas connections. The 2018 Census counted 1.3 million people living in New Zealand who were born overseas, 27 per cent of the population.

Further updates of these provisional estimates of visitors in New Zealand, and of the estimated 100,000–110,000 New Zealand residents travelling overseas currently, will be published on the Provisional international travel statistics webpage.

That webpage will also include more timely, but provisional, border crossing data to assist with COVID-19 analysis and decision-making.

This information complements the Tourism data factsheet published by MBIE which focuses on the inbound tourism sector and people in New Zealand on visitor visas.

That analysis excludes Australian and New Zealand citizens visiting New Zealand, as well as visitors on work, student and other visa types.

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