13 Mar 2012

High dollar likely to continue to affect occupancy rates

8:34 am on 13 March 2012

The high dollar is expected to continue to tarnish occupancy rates in the accommodation sector, but flickers of optimism are out there.

Total guest nights fell to a 30-month low in January, despite a rise in the number of tourists arriving in New Zealand for a break.

Official figures show about 267,000 visitors arrived in January, up 1% on the same month in 2011.

Total guest nights fell 183,000, to 4.2 million in January, compared to last year.

Domestic guest nights fell more than 2% to $2.6 million, while international guest nights fell about 7% on the prior year to 1.6 million.

The fall was down to record lows in Bay of Plenty, at a 30-month low, and Auckland, although Manawatu and West Coast rose.

ANZ economist Steve Edwards says the high dollar is taking its toll on visitor numbers.

He says while the dollar remains strong, which is expected to be the case for the next eight to 12 months, occupancy rates will hover at similar levels.

"But as more confidence returns not only to New Zealanders, but also tourist nations we should see some more inflow of tourists," he says.