China has buoyed up New Zealand's tourism industry over the last two years, compensating for declining visitor numbers from traditional markets, the New Zealand government statistics agency announced Thursday.
Overseas visitor numbers to New Zealand plunged by 15 percent to 184,200 last month, compared to October last year, but were comparable to October 2010, according to Statistics New Zealand.
"The decrease in October 2012 followed an increase in October 2011, when 53,200 visitors arrived for the Rugby World Cup," population statistics manager Andrea Blackburn said in a statement.
"The latest month had a similar number of visits as October 2010."
Although the number of visitors was similar to October 2010, last month saw 6,700 more arrivals from China, and fewer arrivals from the United Kingdom (down 2,000), Japan (down 1,700), and Korea (down 1,400).
Visitor arrivals from China numbered 15,300 last month the highest ever for an October month and a 77-percent increase, or a rise of 8,600, on the October 2010 figure.
The largest increases in the 12-month figures were in visitors from China and Australia, and the largest decreases from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and France.
Visitor arrivals from China numbered 191,500, a rise of 53,900 from the October 2011, with holidaymakers accounting for 71 percent of Chinese visitor arrivals, while 12 percent were visiting friends and relatives, and 8 percent arrived on business.
Chief Executive for Tourism New Zealand, the government tourism agency, Kevin Bowler said that with total arrivals up 1.9 percent over two years ago, a significant change in the market mix could be seen and there was still underlying growth in the sector.
"While long-haul markets with struggling economies are understandably down, we continue to see growth from Australia, up 1.4 percent, and significant growth from China up 39.2 percent for the past year," Bowler said in a statement.
"With China becoming the third largest source for arrivals last month, the potential from this market is clear. In order to realize the benefits this market presents we need to continue our work to connect Chinese travelers with availability of quality New Zealand holiday experiences which will support our goal of increasing Chinese visitor stay days."
Other Asian markets showed growth during October, with Japan arrivals up 20.2 percent and Korea up 12.4 percent.
One long-haul market that was bucking the trend was Germany with arrivals up 8.6 percent.