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Payne, KA 2010, 'Domestic travel by international students in New Zealand', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright KA Payne 2010


The global tourism industry has become a major export industry, ranking fourth after fuels, chemicals and automotive products. The overall export income generated by international tourism including passenger transport reached US$ 1.1 trillion in 2008, or US$ 3 billion a day (World Tourism Organisation, (n.d).

Another emerging but significant export industry is the education export industry, where students and, in particular, tertiary-aged students study outside their country of birth. The direct contributions to a country by these students is significant - for example, the net contribution to the United States economy by international students and their families for the year 2007-2008 was USD$15,543,000,000 (Institute of International Education, 2009a).

When international students engage in travel during their time of study this can generate significant revenue and employment opportunities for a country. However a major challenge found by both tourism operators and researchers is the dearth of research and information on international students’ travel behaviour, consumptions and motivation for travel, particularly when travelling domestically within their study country (Ryan & Zhang, 2007). Without this information available, the ability to grow this market is hampered and consequently a country can miss out on millions of dollars generated by this form of tourism (Arcodia, Mei, & Dickson, 2006; Chadee & Cutler, 1996; Kim, 2007; Kim, Jogaratnam, & Noh, 2006).

This project researched the travel behaviour, consumption of the tourism product, destinations visited, travel party demographics, funding of the travel and overall expenditure as well as their motivations to travel by international students while on holiday in New Zealand. The data were collected by an online survey over a six week period starting in March 2009 and ending in May 2009. The data were collected into an Excel spreadsheet and then transferred to SPSS where it was analysed.

This project found that international students travelled frequently with 47 percent of them having taken at least one overnight trip in the last 12 months. Most students travelled by car to destinations four hours from their resident city with weekends and the summer semester break (November-February) being popular. The most effective means of finding out about a destination was word-of-mouth from friends and family.

Students stayed in economical accommodation such as back packers, hostels or with friends and the three most frequent activities that the respondents undertook were eating out (60.6%), visiting beaches (57.5%) and shopping (40.9%). On average the students spent per holiday between NZ$397.81 - NZ$688.77.

Analysing the students motivations to travel four clusters were identified and overall, students wanted to escape study and the city to travel and be with friends, to relax, to sightsee and to take a break.

One major benefit that this target market brings to New Zealand is that international students travel to regions spending their money on locally owned and operated attractions and activities and thus both urban and regional New Zealand benefit from this tourism. While the international student market is still under researched this project suggests that if all stakeholders in the tourism industry were to undertake further research together then this could result in valuable research resulting in major benefits for all concerned.

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