Analysis

When will tourism pick up? Yonder's barometer to signal growth after Covid-19 lock-down

We’ve aggregated data from all of our NZ customers to build a leading indicator of visitor growth
James Donald
June 30, 2020

We propose website visitors are a leading indicator of people getting ready to travel again. 

Travellers first dream, then plan, then book: they research flights, accommodation and investigate things to do and see. Travellers will be more discerning about how they spend their money, and the online research phase will be a very important part of their decision-making, before committing to expensive travel.

We’ve aggregated data from all our customers around New Zealand and segmented it to look for trends.

Insights - 30 June 2020:

We've been hearing from a range of tourism businesses:

  • Hotels, motels and holiday parks are experiencing high occupancy in the weekends but low (<30%) during the week. For many in the regions this is a reversal, where corporate and group week day travel represented their highest demand, which is far from recovered. This also shows how NZers are getting out in the weekend to explore the country.
  • Tour/experience operators are seeing strong demand in the weekends, and low during the week as most NZers are travelling in the weekend only.  However, we've heard that weekend demand is not matching last years demand, which shows that even when NZers are travelling more it's not meeting the gap that foreign tourists filled.

Our data of website visits finds some interesting trends:

  • Almost all tourism businesses and regions experienced a surge of interest once lockdown ended (moving from level 4 to level 3). This also coincided with the Queens Birthday long weekend.
  • Some regions, such as Rotorua and Otago (Queenstown), have sustained that interest while other regions like Taupo, Tasman (Abel Tasman National Park) and Auckland, have waned. These regions don't offer the same range of things to do in winter, so lower levels of interest are a natural consequence of the weather deterioration in June.
  • Interest from offshore has stayed as low as lockdown levels, even though we hope for an increase in interest from Australia. USA interest never hit rock bottom, and some interest remained. Perhaps a 'COVID free' is an appealing proposition for a holiday.

Since 1st March 2020:

Type of tourism business
Location of tourism business in New Zealand
Location of website visitor


Previous insights

Insights - 2 June 2020:

Moving to Alert Level 2 was announced by the Prime Minister in the afternoon of May 11th and we moved to Alert level 2 on Thursday 16th May.  A NZ public holiday, Queens birthday, was observed on 1st June which coincided with a long weekend

  • Attractions and tours/experiences almost reached pre lockdown levels of website traffic. In fact many reported being sold out over the long weekend.
  • Many accomodation reported being sold out over the long weekend - its been the first real opportunity for NZers to get further from home with the luxury of a long weekend.
  • Mid-week patronage is still incredibly low - with no groups travelling, and many business people not travelling, accomodation is reporting around 25% occupancy during the week.
  • The long weekend appears to be a 'bubble' of interest, already on the 1st June website traffic has dropped and we expect this to fall further. Discussions with tour operators finds a drop in interest is always expected in winter, and with low or no international tourism then mid week interest is expected to remain very low. We may see some pick-up in this, particularly given the interest in the sharp offers for Campervan rentals.
Insights - 13 May 2020:

Moving to Alert Level 2 was announced by the Prime Minister in the afternoon of May 11th.

  • An increase of 2-4x from NZer's in just 2 days after level 2 was announced - mostly focused on things to do:  Attractions, tours and transport.  Kiwis are now more serious about planning travels.
  • Customers are seeing questions like "Hey, will you guys be opening for level 2?”
  • A strong interest in Rotorua, Taupo and Waikato, while weak interest in Otago (Queenstown) and Canterbury. We expect this is because most travellers will be driving to a destination, either as a day trip from home or a weekend trip. Given a large majority of population lives in Auckland and the upper north island this makes sense.
Insights - 30 April 2020:
  • A 3x increase of NZ based website traffic over the last 4 weeks - NZer's seem to be thinking more seriously about travelling now, particularly since lockdown has reduced to level 3 and living within level 2 is now clearer (including more domestic flights).
  • A 2x increase in website visitors from Australia over the last 4 weeks.
  • Noticeable pick-up in interest of attractions, accommodation, tours and experiences.
  • Customers are seeing questions like "Hey, will you guys be opening for level 2?” and "Hi I’m just wondering if you guys have an idea of when you guys will be reopening? :) “
  • We've heard accommodation providers are getting forward bookings, mostly July onwards and later this year, when it's more likely travel is possible.
Insights - 30 April 2020:
  • A 25-50% increase in visits to attractions compared to the previous week although the magnitude is still small.
  • a 25-50% increase in visits from NZ based people, compared to the previous week although the magnitude is still small.
  • No other noticeable pick-ups or changes across business type, region or origin.
  • Some spikes in website traffic we attribute to mail-outs to customers.
Insights - 23 April 2020:
  • A 25-50% increase in visits to tours/experiences compared to the previous week although the magnitude is still small.
  • a 25-50% increase in visits from NZ based people, compared to the previous week although the magnitude is still small.
  • No other noticeable pick-ups or changes across business type, region or origin.
  • Some spikes in website traffic we attribute to mail-outs to customers.
  • Current sentiment in media, since announcement of movement to level 3 on 28th April, is that significant numbers of domestic travellers are now 'dreaming' about domestic travel. However this must be mostly 'dinner table talk' as there's only been a minor increase in the number visits to websites.
16 April 2020:
  • A monumental drop off in website traffic for Attractions, Tours and Transport. This makes sense given all have been forced to close. We heard from customers in the days before and after level 4 alert that enquiries were mostly related to cancellations.
  • Accommodation enquiries were still ongoing for two weeks after lockdown. Many are still open to house essential service workers and tourists stuck waiting for flights home. After a settling-in period to the "new normal" this has now dropped off to near zero.
  • France seems to be an outlier with a relatively modest level of website visitors.
  • There appear to be peaks in website traffic around weekends, presumably when people aren't working and have spare time to dream of post-lockdown travels.

When will traveller numbers grow?

This is the BIG question at the moment. It's a significant decision for tourism businesses to start operations again - staffing up, incurring costs - in the hope that there are people willing to participate in tourism activities.

We are not expecting travel levels to rebound back pre Covid-19 levels until 2021 (optimistically), because there have been fundamental changes to demand for travel, including, critically, the number of flights and seats available. Other key factors influencing travel include:

  • The reduction in household incomes and increased unemployment levels mean that there will be less cash available for travel
  • Business travel attitudes will surely change as the forced virtual work reduces the need for physical travel
  • Travellers will be more cautious given that Covid-19 has not eradicated and there’s no vaccine (yet).

Our hypothesis

  • Domestic visitors will pick-up first, with “drive-to” domestic travel leading the way, followed by “fly-to” domestic travel - such as North Islanders hitting the Queenstown slopes over winter. (See graph below)
  • We expect tours and experiences to be the first to pick-up as 'drive to' local travellers enjoy their weekends. This shoujld be follow by accommodation as people look to take weekends away or week holidays. People will book a place to go first and then plan/book things do to and see. 

We’ll aim to update this data set every two weeks and share our insights on what the data is saying. So bookmark this webpage and visit again.  


About the data:

Unique website visitors to ~50 tourism businesses in all regions around New Zealand. Totals shown are an aggregation of all customers.

  • Accommodation:  Hotels, motels, boutique lodges, holiday parks
  • Transport:  Shuttle services
  • Tours: Guided experiences such as skydiving, rafting, zip-lining.
  • Attractions: High volume unguided activities, such as thermal pools, sightseeing cruises, walking trails.

You might also like

Drive more online sales without more marketing spend

GET THE GUIDE