Cruise ships, tourism and local spending lifts Wellington economy

21 November 2019

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster has welcomed figures showing tourism has helped fuel the capital’s economy and boosted the city’s GDP above the national average.

Image of cruise boats outside stadium

The Infometrics Quarterly Economic Monitor was released on Thursday, alongside the Wellington City Retail Sales Report, both for the year to the end of September.

“It’s heartening to see the latest figures,” Mayor Foster says. “Tourist numbers are increasing and they are spending nearly $2 billion a year in the city.

“Our GDP growth is above the national average, and the unemployment rate has dropped from 4.3 percent to 3.5 percent.

“Wellington City Council is also approving an increasing value of building work – the rate of growth in that area is exceeding the national average.”

Councillor Diane Calvert, who holds the Economic Development Portfolio, says the figures show good news for hospitality businesses and retailers.

Wellington city merchants recorded electronic card retail spend of $3.22 billion in the year to September 2019, up by 3.7 percent.

This was driven largely by more people eating out and an increase in spending in the automotive category, like fuel, repairs and maintenance.

“Hospitality recorded the largest increase, of $49.8m, and seven out of the eight merchant categories had higher levels of sales,” Cr Calvert says.

The figures also show a 28 percent increase in the value of the cruise ship trade. Cruise ships will make more than 120 visits to Wellington this season.

Quarterly Economic Monitor figures:

  • Tourism spending was up 8.1 percent to $1,961 million in the year to Sept 2019; this compares to 6.8 percent in the region and 3.1 percent nationally.
  • Guest nights increased by 3.3 percent in the year to Sept 2019; this compares to 3.2 percent in the region and 1.2 percent nationally.
  • GDP growth was 2.7 percent for the year to Sept 2019 compared to a year earlier. This compares to GDP growth of 2.4 percent in the region and 2.4 percent nationally.
  • The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, down from 4.3 percent a year earlier; this continues its downward trend since it peaked in 2010.
  • The number of residential consents increased by 13.2 percent over the year to Sept 2019; this compares to 11.3 percent in the region and 12.7 percent nationally.
  • The value of non-residential consents issued during the year to Sept 2019 totalled $354m.

Wellington City Retail Sales Summary:

  • Spend at Wellington city merchants was up 3.7 percent in the year to Sept 2019. 
  • Spend by Wellington residents was up 3.0 percent in the year to Sept 2019.
  • Quarter spotlight on the cruise ship trade indicates a 28 percent growth to $59m in the 2018/19 year.