Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese tourists in New Zealand outspent U.S. visitors last year for the first time on record, according to a government report released in Wellington.
Spending by Chinese tourists gained 26 percent to NZ$457 million ($380 million) last year, the Ministry of Economic Development said in a statement. Spending by U.S. visitors fell 4.5 percent to NZ$447 million, the data showed.
New Zealand’s tourism industry, which makes up about 9 percent of gross domestic product, is encouraging visitors from China as weak economic growth in the U.S. and Europe, and earthquakes that struck the South Island city of Christchurch, deter arrivals. The New Zealand dollar’s 10 percent gain over the past 12 months, the most by a Group of 10 currency, also makes the country a more expensive destination for foreigners.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key said he wanted to boost trade and tourism links with the world’s second-largest economy.
The number of tourists from China rose by 23,000 last year to 146,000, the fourth-largest total after Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. Chinese travelers increased their average spending per trip by 7 percent, today’s report showed. Total outlays by tourists rose 3 percent to NZ$5.76 billion last year.
The Christchurch quakes, including a Feb. 22 temblor that killed 185 people and wrecked hotels, restaurants and historic buildings in the heart of the city, curbed tourist numbers, today’s report showed.
Spending by Japanese, who are frequent visitors to the city’s gardens and riverside, slumped 36 percent last year.
Still, the Rugby World Cup, a seven-week tournament in September and October, bolstered national visitor numbers. About 133,000 foreign fans attended the tournament and added as much as NZ$340 million to tourist spending, the ministry said.
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--Editors: Brendan Murray, Garfield Reynolds
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