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International Travel and Migration: September 2016
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 October 2016

More holidaymakers drive visitor arrivals in September

Visitor arrivals numbered 245,900 in September 2016 – a new September record. A 15 percent increase (up 16,200) in holidaymakers compared with September 2015 contributed to the rise.

Visitor arrivals were up 28,100 (13 percent) in September 2016 compared with September 2015.

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, September 2006 to 2016.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between September 2015 and 2016 were in arrivals from:

  • Australia (up 9,100 to 122,200)
  • United States (up 3,700 to 15,200) 
  • Malaysia (up 2,400 to 5,200)
  • Korea (up 2,100 to 5,300).

The rise in arrivals from Australia was driven by more visitors from New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria compared to last September. Recently added routes and additional airlines flying between the United States and New Zealand contributed to the increase in visitor arrivals from the United States between the September months. Visitors arriving from the United States most commonly lived in California, New York state, and Texas.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest change in visitor arrivals by travel purpose between September 2015 and 2016 was for holidays (up 16,200 to 123,200).

Increases in visitors from Australia, the United States, Malaysia, and Korea boosted holiday arrivals. Australia remains the biggest source of holiday arrivals, accounting for 43 percent of total holidaymakers in September 2016, with China the next highest, accounting for 16 percent of holidaymakers.

Annual visitor arrivals set new record

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand were a record 3.39 million in the September 2016 year. This was up 346,000 (11 percent) from the September 2015 year. A 17 percent increase in holiday arrivals (up 249,400 to 1.74 million) was largely responsible.

The biggest changes in visitor arrivals by country of residence between the September years were from:

  • Australia (up 80,000 to 1.38 million)
  • China (up 77,600 to 405,500) 
  • United States (up 32,700 to 270,000).

Holidaymakers and visits to friends and relatives accounted for 81 percent (2.74 million) of all visitor arrivals in the September 2016 year.

For more detailed data about visitor arrivals, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

New September record for short-term resident departures

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 267,900 overseas trips in September 2016, a new September record. This surpassed the previous record of 235,600 in September 2015 by 32,300 trips (up 14 percent).

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, September 2006 to 2016.   

Overseas trips by country of main destination

The biggest changes in overseas trips by country of main destination (where the person will spend the most time) between September 2015 and 2016 were to:

  • Australia (up 10,200 to 116,800)
  • United States (up 3,400 to 23,500)
  • Cook Islands (up 2,500 to 10,800)
  • United Kingdom (down 2,600 to 11,300). 

The increase in trips to Australia was driven by more visits to friends and family (up 6,000 to 48,300), while the decrease to the United Kingdom was due to fewer people making holiday trips (down 2,400) in September 2016, compared to September 2015. Overall, 46 percent of New Zealand-resident departures in September 2016 were holidaymakers.

Annual trips by New Zealand residents reach record 2.54 million 

New Zealand residents departed on a record 2.54 million overseas trips in the September 2016 year. This was up 160,700 (7 percent) from the September 2015 year.

The biggest changes in New Zealand-resident departures by country of main destination between the September years were in departures for:

  • Australia (up 27,000 to 1.16 million)
  • Fiji (up 14,200 to 158,300)
  • Cook Islands (up 13,800 to 92,400).

The main reasons for New Zealand resident departures in the September 2016 year were:

  • holidays (43 percent)
  • visiting friends and relatives (37 percent)
  • business (12 percent).

For more detailed data on overseas trips by New Zealand residents, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

Net gain of migrants hits monthly high

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 6,300 migrants in September 2016. This is the highest seasonally adjusted monthly net gain in migrants, surpassing the peak of 6,200 reached in November 2015.

Graph, Seasonally adjusted monthly permanent and long term migration, September 2006 to 2016.

There was a seasonally adjusted net gain of 300 migrants from Australia in September 2016.

Annual net gain of migrants hits 70,000

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 70,000 migrants in the September 2016 year. This surpasses the previous annual record of 69,100 set in the August 2016 year.

Net migration is calculated from PLT arrivals less PLT departures. The larger gain in migrants in the September 2016 year compared with the September 2015 year was driven by both more arrivals and fewer departures.

Migrant arrivals were a record 125,600 in the September 2016 year, up 6,800 (6 percent) from the September 2015 year. New Zealand citizens returning to live in New Zealand accounted for almost one-quarter (31,200) of all migrant arrivals. The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by country of residence between the September 2015 and September 2016 years were in arrivals from:

  • South Africa (up 1,800 to 3,900)
  • China (up 1,600 to 12,300)
  • Australia (up 1,100 to 25,800)
  • India (down 3,000 to 11,100).

Migrant departures were 55,700 in the September 2016 year, down 2,000 (3 percent) from the September 2015 year. The decrease was driven by a fall in departures to Australia and the United Kingdom between the two September years. New Zealand citizens departing to live overseas accounted for almost 60 percent (33,300) of all migrant departures.

In the September 2016 year, there was a net gain of 2,000 migrants from Australia. It was the 12th consecutive month to show an annual net gain.

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by visa type between the September years were:

  • work visas (up 3,900 to 40,200)
  • residence visas (up 2,100 to 16,000)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 1,600 to 37,000)
  • student visas (down 1,400 to 25,600).

The distribution of migrant arrivals by most common visa type in the September 2016 year was:

  • work visas (32 percent)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (29 percent)
  • student visas (20 percent)
  • residence visas (13 percent).

People arriving on work visas mostly came from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia. People arriving on work visas include working holidaymakers.

People arriving on residence visas mostly came from China, the United Kingdom, and Samoa.

People arriving on student visas mostly came from India, however, these arrivals decreased by 30 percent (down 3,200) in the September 2016 year compared to 2015.

For more detailed data about PLT migration, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

Processing system change

We now process international travel and migration data using a new, upgraded processing system, starting with August 2016 data. This new system uses improved methodology, which takes greater account of travellers' history in addition to intentions stated on the arrival and departure cards. We also make greater use of automation in processing and classifying of passenger types.

Changes in rules used to determine passenger type have been minimised as much as possible to maintain the comparability in the total passenger movements over time. There have been no changes in the variables captured for PLT travellers.

See International Travel and Migration processing system changes in August 2016 in DataInfo+ for more information.

Find data tables and information about this release

For more detailed data see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

See DataInfo+ for more information on definitions and data quality.

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