Tourist numbers plummet


The number of foreigners visiting the region where two tourists have been sexually assaulted in the past 16 months has plummeted.

Statistics New Zealand figures show the number of international visitors staying in Northland in January fell by 16 per cent from the same month last year, four times the national average.

On Wednesday a 27-year-old English woman was sexually assaulted at Haruru Falls, near Paihia, in the Bay of Islands.

In November 2006, a Dutch couple fell victim to a horrifying kidnapping.

But the region’s tourism chief said there was no relationship between the highly publicised attacks and the fall in the number of international guests.

Destination Northland chief executive Brian Roberts said the decline was more likely due to a fall in the number of British and American tourists.

“The overall New Zealand figures have been buoyed by Chinese visitors, but most Chinese don’t come to Northland,” he said.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said attacks on tourists tended to be isolated, “but we still don’t want to let our guard down”.

The Statistics New Zealand figures show the decline has not been restricted to Northland.

Other attacks on tourists have included the killing of Scottish backpacker Karen Aim at Taupo in January, the rape of a German woman at Raglan last year, and the bashing of Canadian man Jeremie Kawerninski in Wellington in 2006.

In the North Island, only Auckland and Bay of Plenty managed increases in total guest nights from international tourists in January.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Fiona Luhrs said it was unlikely the attacks would have affected the North Island figures. Haruru Falls Motor Inn manager Kevin Small said it was still “business as usual” after Wednesday’s incident.

A Paihia police spokeswoman said there had been no major developments in the hunt for the attacker, described as European, aged in his 30s, with dark brown hair. He carried a backpack, wore a large ring on his right hand, spoke with an American accent and was barefoot at the time of the attack.