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Swine Flu Hitting Tourism Sector Says Key

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, June 22 NZPA - The tourism industry is being hurt by swine flu as travellers in some countries put holidays on hold, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Statistics New Zealand said today that in the year to May, 1,001,880 visitors arrived from Australia -- the first time the number has topped a million.

However, the news elsewhere was not so good with numbers down from each of the five largest sources of visitors after Australia.

Travellers from Britain were down 27,300 or 9 percent, from Korea down 25,500 or 28 percent, from Japan down 22,100 or 19 percent, from the United States down 21,200 or 10 percent and from China down 15,400 or 12 percent.

Mr Key said the big reductions had come in the last month as swine flu spread around the world.

"If you look at numbers out of places like Japan, Korea and China there has been quite a significant reduction in arrivals in the last month or so, it is down about 50 percent," Mr Key said.

"There is no getting away from the fact that swine flu risks damaging our tourism industry in the short term."

New Zealand was just one of more than 90 countries that had cases of the disease, so it was not in a unique position.

"It is just a fact that people become more hesitant to travel... you saw exactly the same affect when Sars happened even though New Zealand did not have it."

People worried about many factors and not necessarily because they believed they were at greater risk in New Zealand, but it was too early to tell how much damage was being done, Mr Key said.

Mr Key, who is Tourism Minister, said the increase in visitors from Australia "proved the wisdom" of government investment in that market.

Marketing in Australia was increased by $2.5m in March.

"In tough economic times the New Zealand market is still very accessible to Australians wanting to holiday and we recognised the need to take advantage of that."

Competitive airfares, good seat capacity and a favourable exchange rate made New Zealand attractive, Mr Key said.

"The one millionth Australian visitor is a major milestone for the New Zealand tourism industry and a great achievement given the challenges being faced at the moment."

To celebrate the Australian numbers, Tourism New Zealand is running an online competition offering Australians the chance to win a "millionaire's holiday" in New Zealand.

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