When a planeload of 300 travellers stumble blearily from Customs into the international lounge, about 150 of them are starting their New Zealand holiday.
A hundred will be greeted by friends and relatives – depending on how it goes they could be on holiday too. The other 50 left home denying they were off to New Zealand for a holiday – they are here for business, conferences or education. The 20 or so who look unreasonably refreshed were probably lying down in Business Premier class most of the way.
Of course, it depends on where the passengers normally live. If they are from the United Kingdom, almost all will be here for a holiday and/or visiting friends or relatives. If they are from Australia, one in eight will be here on business and the rest will be evenly split between holidays and visiting friends and relatives.
If they are from China, two-thirds will be here on holiday. Maybe that explains why numbers coming from China fluctuate more than for most countries. Fewer came during the 2003 SARS outbreak, after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and around the Beijing Olympic Games.
The reasons for other trends are open to speculation. Why did numbers from both Japan and the Republic of Korea fall by almost the same number – 32,000? Why did 3,000 more come from both French Polynesia and New Caledonia? Were they trying to console us for the fact that 3,500 fewer were coming from Ireland?
(Statistics are for short-term visitor arrivals — to October 2009.)