A jump in Americans arriving in New Zealand on cruise ships failed to arrest an overall drop in overseas visitors in January, with Chinese tourists tumbling by a fifth.
Some 260,600 tourists visited New Zealand in January for a short-term stay, down 2.3 percent from 266,800 a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand.
The decline came from a 20 percent slide in the number of Chinese visitors to 18,800 and a 7.9 percent fall in the number of Britons to 27,500.
Short-term visitor arrivals rose 2.7 percent to 2.16 million in the 12 months ended January 31.
The number of Americans climbed 17 percent to 24,300, the most for a January month since 2008. That was led by an 85 percent spike in cruise passengers, or 1,700 people, from a year earlier.
Australian tourists increased 2.2 percent to 99,000 from January 2012.
"Chinese people generally travel more around the Chinese New Year holiday, so we had fewer visitors from China and Hong Kong this January," said population statistics project manager Deb Potter.
"An increase in visitors from the United States and Australia partially compensated for this drop."
Chinese tourists have been the saving grace of an industry struggling with a strong exchange rate and high costs of long-haul flights in recent years.
Total spend by international arrivals fell six percent to $5.42 billion in the 2012 calendar year, coming down from a spike in 2011 from the Rugby World Cup.
Today's figures showed a seasonally adjusted net gain of 350 long-term and permanent migrants in January, and breaking even on an annual basis.
Statistics NZ said Auckland and Christchurch were the only regions to gain migrants.
Australia continued to attract New Zealanders across the ditch, with a seasonally adjusted net outflow of 2600 in January, the smallest loss since February 2011.
Some 37,900 more people moved to Australia in the year ended January 31.