U.S. Visitors to New Zealand Rise

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LOS ANGELES -- U.S. arrivals to New Zealand are showing double-digit growth this year after five years of little or no growth.

According to the New Zealand Tourism Board (NZTB), U.S. arrivals rose 16% in both January and February, the peak summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.

"This year, I believe we will return to steady, stable growth," said Gregg Anderson, the NZTB's country manager for the U.S. "The U.S. economy is good, and we're finding Americans are experiencing more of the country -- the lodges and small hotels, the treks, the fishing and wildlife."

Low air fares, increased capacity and a strong U.S. dollar should spur growth during the current soft season, he added.

Los Angeles-Auckland roundtrip fares recently dropped to $550, a level not seen since the early 1990s. They normally would be in the $800-plus range.

Anderson said add-on fares from interior cities dropped to $75 (normally $300 to $400).

In terms of capacity, Qantas has daily Los Angeles-Auckland service; a year ago it had five flights a week.

In early 1997, it cost almost 70 cents to buy a New Zealand dollar; now it costs about 55 cents, Anderson added.

Additionally, he said, New Zealand is seeing a boost in cruise ship arrivals, as more vessels are being positioned in the South Pacific.

Major events will focus attention on New Zealand in the next several years, including the 44th annual World Cup of Golf, slated for November in Auckland, and yachting's America's Cup, which begins in Auckland in October 1999.

The U.S. ties with the U.K. as New Zealand's third-largest market, after Australia and Japan. Last year, the 143,574 U.S. visitors represented a 3% decline, following a 3% decline in 1996.

The country's total visitor count for 1997 -- 1.49 million -- was down 2%, with Australia and Japan also showing slight declines.

"This year, the U.S. is obviously strong, Japan is static and other Asian markets are down, especially Korea," Anderson said.

Among the NZTB's promotions this year will be a 16-page insert in upcoming issues of consumer magazines.

The inserts are a joint effort of the NZTB, the Australian Tourist Board, United, Air New Zealand and Ansett Australia. The tourism board also launched a 12-page destination guide, a 40-page product directory and a trade manual for agents. To obtain copies, call the NZTB's mailing house at (800) 388-5494.

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