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New Zealand Visitor Arrivals in 2009 to be Down Around 10%

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The New Zealand tourism industry expects visitor arrivals to be down around 10% in 2009 when compared with 2008.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton said Australia presents New Zealandís best opportunity for growth as other key source markets suffer the fall-out of the crisis.

"Australia will be a crucial market for us in 2009. With job losses and the weakening dollar, Australians are likely to favour short-haul holidays. New Zealand is still popular and good-value-for-money" he said.

"We also have good capacity on the Tasman route and are likely to see trans-Tasman airfares trending down as airlines try to fill seats."

Tourism New Zealand has brought forward spending in the Australian market to help boost visitor arrivals over the summer and autumn seasons. It is also focused on maintaining a high profile in other key source markets including the US, UK and China.

Tourism Industry Association Chief Executive Tim Cossar said the impacts of a downturn in visitor numbers will be felt differently across sectors and regions.

"Forward bookings beyond March are weak. International travellers are reducing their booking times and the forward booking data is considerably lower compared with previous years," he said.

"Operators and regions with more exposure to long-haul holiday markets like the UK, US and Asia will be most affected. Australia and the domestic tourism market will be critical in buffering the industry from lower international demand."

George Hickton said he believes things will become tougher for the industry beyond April, but with a new US campaign due to launch in February and fresh campaign activity in China, the UK and Australia, the hope is that New Zealand will emerge from the crisis in a stronger position than when it came in.

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