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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Dairy exports overtake travel as
COVID-19 hits
– Media release

3 June 2020

Spending by international students and visitors
in New Zealand fell $239 million in the year to March 2020, compared with
the December 2019 year, Stats NZ said today.

“This fall is an early sign of the impact
of COVID-19 on travel service exports,” international statistics senior
manager Peter Dolan said.

“International students and visitors faced
travel restrictions in the first three months of 2020, especially those
coming from China in February, before the border closed to almost all but
returning New Zealanders in late March.

“We will see the full impact of the border
closure on tourism and travel services in the coming quarters. We already
know that many students didn’t get to New Zealand for the start of the
academic year and all visitor arrivals stopped in late March.

“That will see exports of travel services
drop sharply, until the border is reopened.”

In contrast, dairy exports were up $396 million
in the year to March 2020, boosting New Zealand’s trade surplus to $3.5
billion in the March 2020 year, up $1 billion on the surplus in the December
2019 year.

“As the impacts of COVID-19 measures took
effect in late March, dairy products have held up total exports and overtook
travel exports in revenue for the first time in almost five years,” Mr
Dolan said.

Dairy products were New Zealand’s top goods
export in the March 2020 year at $16.2 billion.

Travel services was New Zealand’s top services
export in the March 2020 year at $15.9 billion.

“Both dairy and travel services are key
export earners for the New Zealand economy, making up over a third of our
total exports,” Mr Dolan said.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, holidaymakers
and international students earned more export revenue than dairy products.
In the September 2010 year, dairy export earnings took over and became
New Zealand’s top export earner through the dairy boom of 2014. As dairy
prices and export earnings fell near the end of 2014, travel took off,
as annual visitor arrivals continued to rise.

“The popularity of New Zealand as both a
tourist destination and a place to study has meant travel services have
been our top export earner since the June 2015 year, but that ended in
the March 2020 year,” Mr Dolan said.

Travel service exports are made up of spending
by international holidaymakers (other personal travel services), people
travelling for business (business travel services) and the tuition fees
and living expenses of international students studying in New Zealand (education
travel services).

The fall in travel service exports in the
March 2020 year was mainly due to a fall in education travel services,
down $148 million compared with the December 2019 year. This was followed
by a fall in other personal travel, down $106 million.