Visitor numbers to New Zealand from Australia are experiencing a strong rally, even though they represent the country’s biggest gap in terms of visitor volume.

Before the pandemic, Australian travellers accounted for around 40% of all visitors to New Zealand from overseas. Although numbers have recovered to 83% of pre-pandemic levels, 265,000 fewer visitors were recorded.

The most recent visitor figures were discussed during the annual Auckland Airport Tourism Forum in Wellington on Wednesday, preceding the industry's TRENZ conference, RNZ reports.

During the 12 months leading up to February this year, 1.27 million Australian visitors travelled to Aotearoa, compared to 1.54 million in 2019. Additionally, Indonesia has now become the top travel destination for Australians, representing 14% of all Australian outbound trips.

In 2019, New Zealand accounted for 13% of all outbound overseas trips for Australians, but it has since dropped to 12%.

Auckland Airport's chief executive, Carrie Hurihanganui, stressed the need for solutions to accelerate the recovery of the Australian tourist market.

“While numbers are tracking well and in-line, or even surpassing, other in-bound tourism markets, Australian tourists have an outsized impact on New Zealand's traveller recovery because they make up such a large portion of the market,” Hurihanganui stated. 

“Our forum today is all about shining a light on the important Australian market and coming together as a tourism industry to find solutions.

“When we think of tourism it's often easy to think of the long-haul trips. However, our neighbours across the ditch are our number one volume visitor market.”

She added: “We need to ensure we remain attractive and relevant to Australian travellers as a destination in a competitive global tourism market that is also vying for high value Aussie visitors.”

Furthermore, Queenstown experienced the strongest recovery, reaching a 117% recovery compared to 2019 figures, with 235,000 Australian visitors arriving in the year to February. 

Additionally, international tourist numbers have surged back, with 3.1 million overseas visitors arriving in the same period.

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