Impact of COVID-19 on the March 2020 IVS release

COVID-19 has affected the IVS collection in the March 2020 quarter

Border restrictions took effect from 3 February, preventing foreign travellers who left or transited through Mainland China from entering New Zealand.  This was extended to include foreign travellers from Iran on 28 February. From 1am on 16 March 2020, all travellers arriving in or returning to New Zealand from outside the country were required to self-isolate for 14 days. This stopped the majority of international tourism. New Zealand’s borders were closed to all but returning New Zealanders at 11.59pm on 19 March.

This has led to a major difficulty in the collection of survey results for the IVS.  The IVS relies on surveying outbound visitors at international airports, which became progressively more difficult through March. By mid-March, there were fewer international visitors to interview, and a higher refusal rate (most likely due to concerns around COVID-19). All interviewing stopped following the Level 4 Lockdown on 25 March.

This meant that the sample over the quarter, in particular in the month of March 2020, was much lower than usual. The target sample for the IVS over a year is 8,900. For the year ended March 2020, the sample was 7,745.

Use caution when interpreting Q1 2020 results

MBIE and Stats NZ have worked together to assess the quality of the sample for the March 2020 and concluded it was sufficient for public release. However, please use caution when interpreting the figures, as the lower sample sizes have led to higher margins of errors for our key markets. This doesn’t mean that the results are incorrect, rather that they are less precise. There is also an increased potential for bias being introduced into the sample, for example, visitors who departed in March are under-represented.

Changes are being made in the IVS collection into the future

MBIE will not conduct interviews for the foreseeable future as it is unlikely there will be sufficient visitors to run a survey at airports. To fill this gap, Stats NZ and MBIE have collaborated in developing a model to estimate international visitor expenditure based on electronic card transactions (ECTs). Stats NZ will release this experimental series on the Experimental initiatives section of their website.

Experimental initiatives - StatsNZ website(external link)

MBIE and Stats NZ will evaluate the model and continue the development of a modelling approach going forward to see if it can act as a reasonable replacement for the IVS survey spend data. This modelling approach does not offer a replacement for the other information historically provided by the IVS (such as travel types, activities and locations travelled to). Interviewing will resume when it is deemed safe and enough visitors are present to obtain a sufficient sample.

Last updated: 20 August 2020