West Coast visitor trend data - May 2021

01 July 2021
Development West Coast
Newly released visitor trend data for the West Coast shows tourism spend for May rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, but the uneven impact of border closures remains.

Tourism spend for May rebounds

Download: May 2021 visitor trend report (PDF)

Newly released visitor trend data shows domestic visitor spending helped offset the loss of international tourists during the month of May. However, the uneven impact of border closures remains with Buller booming and Glacier Country continuing to struggle.

A monthly report, commissioned by Development West Coast (DWC), shows overall tourism spend in the region for May 2021 was slightly above the pre-Covid levels of May 2019.

Based on electronic card transactions, visitor spending in the West Coast during May was $9.6m, up 0.2% or $23,000 from May 2019 and up 74% or $4.1m from May 2020.

Spending by domestic visitors made up the majority of this ($8.9m), up 48% or $2.9m on May 2019 and up 76% or $3.5m on May 2020. International visitor spending for the month was only $665,000, down 81% or $2.9m on May 2019.

The visitor boom continues in Buller, with spending in May up 60.7% from the pre-pandemic benchmark of May 2019. This increase was driven by a 53% spending increase in Westport and a 50% increase in Reefton.

Grey district also experienced increased visitor spending over May, up 13.6% on May 2019.

Meanwhile, Westland was the only district to experience a drop in visitor spending for May – down 30.8%. This fall was based on the continuing struggles in Glacier Country which experienced a 47% decrease in spending in May. In contrast, Hokitika had a 20% bump in visitor spending above pre-pandemic levels.

Overall visitor spending for the year-end May 2021 was $144.3m, down 4.9% or -$7.4m from that of the year end May 2020. An increase in domestic spending of $57.7m failed to offset the loss of $65.1m in international spending for the year.

The visitor spend figures used in the report are based on electronic card transactions.

“While the figures do not represent the exact spend in our region, they are a good indicator of the trends in visitor spending,” says DWC chief executive Heath Milne.

Importance of domestic market

According to research from Tourism New Zealand, 63% of New Zealanders have experienced a new tourism activity or visited a new place this year.

The research also suggests that domestic visitors travel off-peak more often, with 72% of domestic spend outside of the peak summer season.

Mr Milne says, while domestic visitation has not been spread evenly across the region, we are seeing significant growth in Kiwis exploring our backyard.

Domestic spend in the West Coast for the year-end May 2021 was 48% above pre-pandemic levels.

“The impact from the loss of international tourists highlights the importance of building greater resilience into our visitor industry,” Mr Milne says.

“The domestic market has the potential to lift productivity in the sector throughout the year.

“DWC’s Destination and Tourism team have engaged an agency to conduct research on visitor perceptions of the West Coast amongst New Zealanders.

“This research will help build our understanding of the travel mindsets, needs and behaviours of the domestic audience.

“A data-driven understanding of the domestic market will optimise opportunities for the region, enabling us to build on our current growth in domestic visitors even when borders re-open.”

DWC has also recently launched a domestic marketing campaign giving Kiwis the chance to win a ‘Hands On’ West Coast adventure.

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