Tourism Electronic Card Transactions (TECTs)

The TECTs are an interim replacement for the Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates (MRTEs) to understand tourism spend activity in New Zealand.

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visitor) significantly changed, and the assumptions underpinning the MRTE methodology, based on historical data, were no longer valid.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.

The TECTs have replaced the MRTEs to provide an understanding of regional monthly expenditure in tourism

The Tourism Electronic Card Transactions release will replace the MRTEs. This new measure reflects the expenditure for all electronic card transactions (ECTs) in New Zealand related to tourism. Marketview use a base of spending on the Paymark network (approximately 70 per cent of total ECT spend) to scale up to total ECT spend.

The TECTs move away from estimating all tourism spend (as in the MRTEs) and does not include any other form of spending such as cash, pre-purchases or online. Therefore the figures in the TECTs will be smaller than those of the MRTEs, as they only represent part of tourism spend. What is published will be the most accurate measure available for tracking tourism spending in New Zealand, and will not be affected by the issues identified in the MRTEs outlined above.

We would recommend looking at trends, including month-on-month or year-on-year comparisons, when interpreting tourism spending using the TECTs. The series includes historical data back to 2018 to allow for the analysis of trends and yearly comparisons. Comparing the TECTs with the MRTEs will not be meaningful.

The TECTs focus is on domestic ECTs and include breakdowns by region of origin and product type. Due to the issues found with international card spend, an ‘other’ visitor type was created to include this spending.

The TECTs are an interim measure until improved measures of regional tourism expenditure can be created

The TECTs will be released in line with the usual MRTE schedule in the short to medium term.

For the longer term future, MBIE will assess if there is a better way to estimate tourism spend in New Zealand, especially once the borders start opening and measuring international spend becomes more important. However, as the IVS and TSA produce annual statistics, they will not be able to be used as part of any measure until at least 2022. MBIE will look at working with industry and government to make a dataset that in the long term will be fit-for-purpose going forward. 

Last updated: 04 March 2021