Over $8 Billion A Year: What Tourists Are Spending On In New Zealand

International visitors to New Zealand spent more than $8 billion in one year leading up to March 2013. Some of the world’s richest people vacation in this paradise down under, including multi-billionaire Bill Gates who was spotted quad-biking (a $100+ per hour experience). With its golden sands, fine wines, scenic golf resorts and more, some might say this small country of just four million people has got exactly what the rich and famous seek.

When the northern hemisphere hits its coldest months, New Zealand is basking in sunshine. This is part of what makes it such a popular spot for a getaway. Summer in New Zealand runs from December through March, but the warmer weather can often last well into April. On top of the balmy weather, New Zealand’s scenery and secluded vacation spots are no doubt responsible for the growing number of wealthy tourists who flock there every year.

Considering the long distance between New Zealand and many other countries, a flight to to this destination can be costly. For example, a business class flight from New York to Auckland with Air New Zealand would cost approximately $5,200 one way. Similarly, a business class flight from London to Auckland costs about $5,100 one way. Considering that the cost of the flight alone is more than the average all inclusive, it is expected that most vacationers are travelling with a little extra cash. Here is our look at the top ten ways tourists are spending big in New Zealand.

10 Eat in Style – $200+ per person  

When it’s time to eat, the richest visitors to New Zealand won’t be disappointed. Up and down the country, high-end restaurants are filled with seafood specialties, roasted lamb and fresh vegetables. The award-winning restaurant, Martin Bosley’s, has become an icon in Wellington, which is New Zealand’s capital city. When dining at Martin Bosley’s, which looks out onto Wellington harbor, a mouth-watering degustation menu will cost about $200 per person including wine pairings. Aside from luxury restaurants, there’s also fine wine galore. Visitors to New Zealand can sample the range of wine offerings at many local wineries on a winery tour, or simply jump right ahead and choose a bottle of fine sauvignon blanc to take home. A bottle of award-winning Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc costs about $20.

9 Experience Culture – $200+ per person   

A little-known fact about New Zealand is that its native people, the Maori, have a vibrant and interesting culture – and it’s a huge money maker. The growing commercial assets owned by the Maori people in New Zealand is estimated to be worth more than $16 billion. A number of stars have been so intrigued by the culture that they’ve had traditional New Zealand tattoos while in the country on tour, including Rihanna, Mike Tyson, Robbie Williams and Ben Harper. Wealthy tourists pay hundreds of dollars to sample all the best bits of the culture with private tours, authentic shows and the purchasing of hand-crafted jewellery. An example could be cruising into shore by boat in the early morning, greeted with the spine-tingling performance of traditional Maori warriors, followed by sampling a Maori feast involving fine cuisine cooked under the ground.

8 Action and Adventure – $200+ per person

Superstar singer Beyonce took some time out after a recent concert in Auckland to free fall over 600 feet from the Sky Tower in Auckland. The petrifying video went viral and highlighted just how much of an adventure playground New Zealand is for any thrill-seeker – especially those with money to spend. This particular activity, called a SkyJump, costs about $200 per adult. Aside from the free falling opportunities, tourist hot spots all over the country are filled with exciting, and expensive, adventure activities that’ll get the adrenalin pumping. Activities include bungy jumping in Queenstown (for $200+ per adult), jet boating, canyon swings, sky diving, caving and white-water rafting.

7 Visit a Private Beach - $1,500+ per day

Despite being a small country, New Zealand has the ninth-longest coastline in the world and that means one thing: tons of beaches. Every inch of New Zealand seems to have a view of a beach, or at least a river or lake, and the summer weather lends itself to long days spent at the beach. All the beaches are technically free and accessible by the public, but there are plenty of private spots popping up around the country that the richest people make a beeline for.

In the Marlborough Sounds, for example, you can get a 20-minute helicopter ride (for $1,500) to the privately-owned Forsyth Island and then rent the entire private island, and its luxurious lodge accommodation, for about $1500 per day. Many luxury resorts and hotels offer the highest-paying guests access to a private beach.  

6 Luxury Lodges – $1,500+ per night  

An escape to a country as quiet and secluded as New Zealand is, not surprisingly, full of tranquil lodges. Kauri Cliffs in the Bay of Islands, in the northern (and warmest) part of New Zealand is one of the finest lodges, with a price tag of about $1,500 per night depending on the season.

An awarding-winning golf and spa hotel, it has all the elements of a luxurious getaway that the world’s richest crave. It’s a five-star experience, with green rolling hills, private beaches on the Pacific Ocean, uninterrupted peace – and a ridiculously scenic golf course. Billionaire philanthropist and New Yorker, Julian Robertson, fell in love with New Zealand in the 1970s and a couple of decades later he started investing in luxurious lodges like Kauri Cliffs.

5 Private Plane – $4,000+ per flight

Hiring a private plane isn’t out of the ordinary for the world’s wealthiest people, so it’s not surprising that several companies in the beautiful Queenstown offer the chance to check out scenery – or to travel to your next destination – from the privacy of a plane or helicopter. Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most-visited resort towns. Taking off from Queenstown airport in New Zealand’s South Island, the scenery beneath is breathtaking and complete with lakes, mountains and ski fields. It looks like it’s straight from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies – and it actually is!  You could take a one-way flight (for three to four people) for about $4,000 between Queenstown and Arthur’s Pass. This flight, lasting about three hours, would include a landing at the famous Fox Glacier where you could hop off and take a helicopter right onto the glacier.

4 Fly Fishing – $5,000 per week  

This small country down under is every fisherman’s dream, with an abundance of opportunities for fishing along 15,000 kilometers of coastline.  In the north, fishers will spot snapper, kingfish and tarakihi. Down south, there are blue cod, trumpeter and grouper. From December to June, fishing is a big business and hugely popular with tourists. Owen River Lodge in the Nelson region offers a five-star fly fishing experience for guests in one of the world’s best brown trout fishing spots. The mild climate, and clear rivers and streams, make for the perfect conditions. A seven-day, all-inclusive package at the five-star lodge costs about $5,000 per person, depending on the season, and includes an experienced guide and the best fly fishing gear.

3 Hit the Slopes – $5,000+ per week

From June to October every year, New Zealand’s mountains are turned into ski fields. They may not consistently get as much snow as some international skiing destinations, but they make up for it with all the extras one could hope for. A luxury seven-day stay in a lodge near Wanaka’s best ski fields, plus a luxury car rental, will cost about $5000 per person. That doesn’t include ski passes (about $80 a day) or ski equipment, which can be thousands of dollars if you want to keep it at the end of your vacation.


A stay in the best suite, called the Master Suite, at Whare Kea Lodge in Wanaka will include pre-dinner drinks, gourmet canapés and a five-course degustation menu. On the slopes, the views stretch for miles over lakes and mountain ranges, down to small resort towns. From spa treatments to high-end boutique shopping, there’s plenty of off-slope entertainment.

2 Luxury Golf – $10,000 for two days

More New Zealanders play golf than any other sport and this is evident by the sheer number of golf courses throughout the country. With almost 400 courses to choose from, many of which are world-ranked, the biggest problem is making sure the background scenery doesn’t take your mind off the game. A luxury golf itinerary in New Zealand doesn’t come cheap but will surely impress. The Cape Kidnappers 18-hole course in the Hawke’s Bay region is one of the best, featuring dramatic cliff faces and ocean views. For about $10000 you’ll get a three-night luxury stay including food and two days of golf. Your suite will include a private balcony, 180-degree views of the farm, golf course and sea, plus a walk-in closet and spacious bathroom.

1 Yacht Charter – $25,000 per week

We all know the world’s richest travelers like to travel in style. Taking a chartered yacht through New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is an experience not to be missed. It’s possible to hire your very own yacht with all the trimmings including a personal chef who will catch fresh seafood and turn it into dinner. Top that off with a sub-tropical climate, clear blue water, dolphins and white-sand beaches, and you have a recipe for a few days of pure luxury. A seven-day yacht charter in summer costs about $25000, and includes three double cabins, each with a private ensuite. It also comes with equipment including water skis, paddle boards and kayaks.

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