Kiyomizudera Koyasunoto Pagoda and Cherry Blossom - Kyoto - April 2024
Chart of the Month: The top Kiwi travel destinations

New Zealanders are out exploring the world again, in large numbers. Those travels are easy to see, with scores of young Kiwis documenting their overseas trips across social media. Having recently travelled overseas myself – to Japan – I realised soon into my trip that I knew of a handful of other Kiwis also touring the same country. It prompted the question – how many Kiwis are travelling, and where’s the most popular spot?

As it turns out, Japan is the ninth-most popular destination, but has indeed seen a surge of travellers above pre-pandemic levels already! So this month’s Chart of the Month, we look at some of the trends around where in the world Kiwis travel to.

Over 2.8m trips abroad

New Zealand resident travellers are classified in two ways – when they leave New Zealand, and when they arrive back. Departures of Kiwis on holidays has surged to 2.96m Kiwi departures over the 12 months to Feb 2024. That total equates to 96% of pre-pandemic Kiwi departures, and is proportionately ahead of overseas tourist arrivals into New Zealand, at 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

The other classification is New Zealand resident travellers arriving back in New Zealand – at which point we can assess their country of main destination. On this arriving back measure, over the February 2024 year Kiwi arrivals back into New Zealand totalled 2.8m, up from 1.7m in the February 2023 year. This total was 93% of pre-pandemic traveller numbers.

Total travel destinations for Kiwis

As our Chart of the Month shows, Australia is (unsurprisingly) the top travel destination for Kiwis, with 1.1m visits in the 12 months to February 2024. Fiji took out second spot, with 204,000 visits, followed by the United States of America (167,000), China (120,000), and the United Kingdom (114,000).

Asia dominates the remainder of the Top 20 travel destinations for Kiwis, with nine countries (India, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Singapore) featuring. In fact, Asia is the most visited area outside of Oceania (and larger than Oceania if Australia is removed).

Largest recovery, of the major markets

Although some of the Kiwi traveller numbers are large, many still lag behind levels seen in 2019 (pre-pandemic). Australia might be our favourite travel destination, but Kiwi visits have only recovered to 89% of pre-pandemic levels. Of the top 20 most visited areas, seven have already surpassed pre-pandemic traveller numbers. Italy tops the list, with 128% of pre-pandemic Kiwi travel, followed by India (126%), then Korea (125%).

My visit to Japan appears to be part of a trend, with Kiwi travel to Japan at 122% of usual pre-pandemic levels.

Some curious, off the beaten track, travellers?

Our first attempt at examining traveller changes has to be adjusted because of how many large percentage increases were recorded for so many areas (usually with smaller visitor numbers), which skewed the analysis. Despite the curious nature of these visits, it’s worth listing them. In total, 26 areas have seen 10x the number of travellers from New Zealand compared to pre-pandemic, with these areas combined increasing from a total of 369 Kiwi visitors in the February 2019 year, to 7,602 visitors in the February 2024 year.

Two trends stand out:

  1. There are a number of (usually tropical) islands on this list of more than 10x Kiwi travellers compared to 2019. Anguilla is the standout, with an 18x increase in Kiwi travellers after an increase from 8 travellers in the February 2019 year to 1,505 in the February 2024 year. Several other Caribbean and other islands feature.
  2. Africa is a small overall, but growing destination for Kiwi travellers. New Zealand visitors to Africa and the Middle East over the February 2024 year are 32% higher than over the February 2019 year, with half of the 26 areas with a 10x increase or more being in Africa. Benin and Eswatini get mentions, with 4 travellers in 2019 rising to 341 in 2024 in Benin (+8,425%), and from 5 to 236 for Eswatini (+4,620%).


The table below outlines the full list of travel destinations, with data for the February 2019 and 2024 years.

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