Tourism Electronic Card Transactions (TECTs)

The TECTs are an interim replacement to Monthly Regional tourism Estimates (MRTEs) that provide insights into monthly tourism spend.

We advise users to not add domestic and international market totals together. They should be used separately. This is due to ECTs in each market representing a different proportion of total tourism spend. More information can be found below.

While the TECTs show international spend from April 2020 – April 2021, we don’t have confidence in these figures as they could be skewed by returning New Zealanders using their overseas credit card.

The TECTs are now presented in the new Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre (TEIC)

TECT data is now available on the new TEIC in the form of interactive graphs. As well as visualising the data, you also have the ability to customise the graphs, download them and the data behind them. Pivot tables are still available by clicking ‘data download’ in the menu on the left of this page.

Tourism Evidence and Insights Centre(external link)

What are the TECTs and how are they created?

The Tourism Electronic Card Transactions (TECTs) have been established by MBIE as an interim replacement for the MRTEs. 

The MRTE series was disrupted by COVID-19, as the methodology for weighting the measured electronic card transaction spend up to the whole of industry spend became unusable.  

The TECTs instead aim to present the measured electronic card transactions (ECT) attributable to tourism but without any attempt to represent the total spend. This method is considered to be the best way to provide spend data to the industry while travel is severely affected by COVID-19 border restrictions. Users need to be aware of the limitations of this approach, as set out in this notice.     

They represent card spending only

The TECTS represent part of total tourism spend as they are based almost exclusively on physical electronic card transactions, and do not include any other form of spending such as cash, pre-purchases or online spend.

This results in the figures in the TECTs being substantially smaller than those of in the MRTEs so the two series should not be directly compared. 

The TECT data is provided by Marketview, who use a base of ECT spending from the Paymark network (approximately 70 per cent of total ECT spend) to estimate total ECT spend. 

This estimated total ECT spend is then filtered for tourism spend by visitors in New Zealand. Domestic tourism spend is classified as spend that is more than 40km outside the visitor’s  usual place of residence. This can include a primary and secondary residence (e.g. for home and work). International spend is classified as transactions in New Zealand using overseas bank and credit cards.  Holders of these cards can be visitors, or people living and working in New Zealand. Normally, the visitor spend is by far the largest contributor for this category.

Continued reviewing and publishing

We will continue reviewing and publishing the most accurate measure available for understanding tourism spending going forward.

Despite some limitations, we have found  the TECTs are the best available measure for tracking tourism spending in New Zealand amidst the COVID-19 border restrictions.   

We will continue to regularly review our approach to ensure that it is still the most accurate method available for understanding tourism spending, which will be especially important as border restrictions change in the future.  Measuring the recovery of tourism will be an important role for the TECT series.  

How do I use the TECTs?

Look at trends and comparison figures

We recommend looking at trends and comparison figures instead of dollar values.

With the TECTs only representing part of total tourism spend, we recommend looking at trends, such as percentage changes for month-on-month or year-on-year comparisons. The TECT series includes historical data back to 2018 to allow for the analysis of trends over this period.

Focus on the domestic market from April 2020 – April 2021

Over the period of April 2020 to April 2021, we recommend focusing on the domestic market results, and would recommend caution when using international market results.

The TECTs represent the domestic market well. Approximately around half of total tourism spend for domestic visitors was captured as ECT data pre-COVID-19 (although the proportion size may now have changed due to shifts in behaviours post-COVID-19).  Also, domestic demand has not been completely disrupted by COVID-19, so we expect it is operating with some degree of normality.

However, the international series is significantly less reliable, so we have split the international series into Australian card spend and an ‘other’ category that includes all other international card spend.

International spend is based on the use of overseas electronic cards in New Zealand and these have been fundamentally impacted by COVID-19.  With borders closed, the transactions recorded are far fewer and likely exhibit different characteristics.  For instance, we expect that many of the transactions will be by New Zealanders (with electronic cards issued by foreign banks) returning from overseas, or by people from overseas who have remained in New Zealand over the period, with these likely being a mix of tourists, and people living and working in New Zealand.    

Now that quarantine free travel has begun with Australia (and the Cook Islands), we have more confidence in the Australian card spend figures from May 2021, due to the size of the market.

How is domestic tourism calculated? 

Changes to the way domestic tourism spend is calculated 

Measuring domestic tourism expenditure has always been complex due to the difficulty in differentiating between local, commuter and domestic spend. In 2015 it was agreed by government and industry stakeholders that domestic tourism should be defined as NZ residents travelling more than 40km outside their usual place of residence. 

Previously, a cardholder’s address could be estimated down to a small area (the meshblock level) using data our service provider (Marketview) received from the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ). This data is no longer available. 

Marketview is now using spending patterns via Paymark data to estimate where cardholders reside. However, this is only able to be done down to the territorial authority (TA) level.  

Following consultation with Marketview and analysis of the data, we determined that the best implementation of the definition of domestic tourism is a hybrid approach. At this point in time, Marketview cannot classify the exact cardholder residence within a TA. Therefore, domestic tourism spend for a cardholder is defined as: 

  1. spending 40km from the largest urban centre within a cardholder’s home TA, and 
  2. spending outside of the cardholder’s home TA. 

We also aim to remove commuter spend from totals. Spend by cardholders is defined as commuter spend if a certain frequency and proportion of their total spend is in another TA. If this level is met, any spend within the second TA would also be removed, as well as spend from their home TA. 

Online spend is also removed from estimates 

All online spending is not classed as tourism behaviour and is therefore removed. This is because a significant amount of online spending cannot be accurately classified to a specific region, and therefore falls outside of regional tourism reporting. 

How did we get to the TECTs?

COVID-19 border changes created issues with the quality of the MRTEs

The MRTEs were designed to function in a stable tourism environment with consistent trends. The border closure due to COVID-19 created a significant shock on the tourism environment, with increases in tourism spending in the domestic market, and the international market reduced to a fraction of typical spend.

This shock created a number of issues with the quality of the MRTEs.

  • The characteristics of markets (such as length of stay, type of visitor and source of visitor) significantly changed, and the assumptions underpinning the MRTE methodology, based on historical data, were no longer valid.
  • The datasets used in the MRTE model did not reflect the COVID-19 environment. The International Visitor Survey (IVS) was discontinued after the March 2020 quarter and The Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) released in December 2020 for the year-ended March 2020 does not include most of the economic impacts of COVID-19 on tourism.
  • A proportion of international card spend may be New Zealanders returning home and still using their international bank cards. This would mean it is being incorrectly classified as international tourism.
  • The movements in the MRTE data had diverged from those shown in the raw ECT data, underlying the MRTEs.
  • Users of the MRTEs in the tourism industry raised concerns around the validity of movements seen in the post-COVID-19 MRTE releases.

An internal review of the MRTEs found that they were no longer fit-for-purpose

Due to the reasons above, MBIE commissioned an internal review of the MRTEs at the end of last year. The review recommended that:

  • The MRTEs estimated in the usual way could be misleading and MBIE should suspend the publication of the MRTEs.
  • MBIE should explore alternative indicators for understanding tourism spend activity.
In this section

TECT data download

Data from our latest Tourism Electronic Card Transactions (TECTs) are available here for download.

Last updated: 06 May 2021