Which areas are benefiting most from domestic tourism and visitation?

31 March 2021

Tourism patterns have changed significantly over the last 12 months while New Zealand’s borders have been closed. New Zealanders have been holidaying at home and exploring locations they might not have visited for many years.

To understand how spending patterns are evolving in real time, DOT Loves Data analyses more than one million EFTPOS NZ transactions every day. We use tokenized eftpos and credit card data from 1.6m cardholders to determine each consumer’s home region, where they are travelling to and how much they are spending there.

This helps regions to understand the sources of their domestic tourists, who their key markets are and where they should direct their advertising spend.

During the period from 1 September 2020 – 15 March 2021, New Zealand tourism destinations receiving the highest amount of out-of-region visitation included:

% of total spend from outside the local area - Highest

Carterton 71.64%
Kaikoura 69.41%
Mackenzie District 66.30%
South Wairarapa 64.38%
Westland District 60.68%
Queenstown Lakes 52.67%
Ruapehu District 51.98%
Southland District (Te Anau)48.12%
Thames-Coromandel 39.87%
Hurunui (Hanmer Springs) 36.96%
Central Otago 36.96%
Buller 35.58%
Taupo 32.25%

Kaikoura, Mackenzie District and South Wairarapa (Featherston, Greytown and Martinborough) received the highest proportion of spend from out-of-towners, closely followed by Westland, Queenstown Lakes, Ruapehu and Southland District (largely Te Anau).

These are locations with low levels of local population relative to high levels of domestic tourism visitation. Despite the lack of international tourism, $6.90 out of every $10 spent in Kaikoura comes from a tourist, a very significant contributor to their local economy.

In the example of Carteron and South Wairarapa, they are in close proximity to Wellington and have become favoured as Wellington’s playground and home away from home. Wellingtonians accounted for 39.35% of tourism spend in South Wairarapa and 16.42% of tourism spend in Carterton.

Comparatively, the following locations receive most of their spend from local residents and rely to a lesser extent on tourists. These are areas that are in more remote locations or where tourism is less-pronounced.

% of total spend from outside the local area - Lowest

Gisborne 7.35%
Whanganui 9.64%
Ashburton 11.56%
Marlborough 11.77%
South Taranaki 12.36%
Invercargill 12.65%
Whangarei 14.28%
Masterton 18.32%

Main Centres: % of total spend from outside the local area

Of the main centres, with a large local population, spending is weighted toward local residents:

Auckland 3.54%
Wellington 16.23%
Hamilton 18.80%
Tauranga 15.62%
Palmerston North 20.98%
Nelson 23.20%
Christchurch 13.14%
Dunedin 8.72%

The data shows that Auckland effectively sustains itself. The domestic tourism spending it does receive is far-outweighed by the total consumer spending of Aucklanders within their home city. Dunedin also sees relatively low levels of tourism compared with other main centres around New Zealand, while Wellington benefits significantly from daily commuters travelling to the city for work from Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and the Kapiti Coast.

Auckland visitors play a significant role in local tourism and consumer spend. They are the largest source of out-of-region visitors to every main centre in New Zealand. For example, Aucklanders’ spend (13.07% of total visitation) eclipses that of Christchurch residents (11.14%) in Dunedin, as well as Nelson, Queenstown and every other main centre in New Zealand.

Overall, the favourite destination for Aucklanders is the Coromandel, closely followed by the Far North, Tauranga, Whangarei, Rotorua, Kaipara, Taupo and Queenstown.