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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Border restrictions cause major drop in visitor arrivals – Media release

14 May 2020

March 2020 saw the largest-ever drop in monthly visitor arrival numbers, ahead of the COVID-19 lockdown, Stats NZ said today. There were 175,500 visitor arrivals in March 2020, down 202,700 (54 percent) compared with March 2019.

“During the second half of March the government imposed border restrictions for international visitors as part of the broader response to COVID-19,” population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

“Visitor arrivals in recent weeks have been near zero.”

While this release is for March, it includes provisional data for part of April, being the most up-to-date figures currently available. Finalised April figures will be published on 15 June 2020 in International travel: April 2020.

How many visitors are still here?

We estimate that there are 135,000–155,000 visitors from overseas currently in New Zealand. These are people who normally live overseas, including Australian and New Zealand citizens, and those on work, student, visitor, and other visas.

Just before the lockdown in mid-March it was estimated that there were 240,000–260,000 visitors in New Zealand.

There have been relatively few departures from New Zealand in recent weeks.

In order to provide more insight into where our visitors were located, we collaborated with Data Ventures to provide an estimated regional breakdown as at 7 May 2020, by using cellphone-tower location data for international devices in New Zealand.

See below for text alternative for Estimated number of overseas visitors in New Zealand by regional council area as at 7 May 2020.

Three quarters of overseas visitors were located in the North Island with the remaining quarter in the South Island.

Auckland was the region with the most visitors, around 30 percent of the total number.

See Provisional international travel for a more detailed breakdown of each region.

Low numbers of residents returning

136,700 New Zealand-resident travellers returned from overseas in March 2020, down 58,300 from March 2019.

New Zealand residents are still returning home, despite travel restrictions here and in other countries, although these numbers are now very low.

How many New Zealand residents are still overseas?

On 7 May 2020, we estimated 50,000–60,000 New Zealand residents were travelling overseas, down from our estimation of 100,000–110,000 made in March.

There would normally be around 140,000 New Zealanders travelling overseas in May.

These figures include both New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens who have been living in New Zealand.

Key travel restrictions timeline

Text alternative for Estimated number of overseas visitors in New Zealand by regional council area as at 7 May 2020.

Regional map of New Zealand showing overseas visitors by their location as at 7 May 2020. Circle size represents the relative number of visitors. The largest circle is Auckland, followed by Canterbury and Wellington. The smallest circles are West Coast and Nelson.