Before the Second World War only wealthy New Zealanders travelled overseas for holidays. Regular destinations were England and Europe (places of origin for most Pākehā New Zealanders), the Pacific Islands and Australia.
Trans-Tasman leisure travel was boosted in the 1870s with the introduction of modern Union Steam Ship Company steamships. The fleet was upgraded in the 1890s, and again following the First World War. By 1939 it was possible to make the crossing to or from Australia in three and a half days.
The Union Steam Ship Company also offered winter cruise tours from Sydney and Auckland through the South Pacific Islands from 1877. These were more heavily promoted from the 1890s, but attracted only the most affluent members of New Zealand society. Routes extended in the early 20th century, but Pacific cruising remained an activity for the rich in the interwar period.
From 1940 new developments in aviation provided a much quicker and more comfortable way of getting to other countries. In 1940 Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) began a service between Auckland and Sydney, and later between Wellington and Sydney, using flying boats (a type of seaplane). The trip took over 10 hours, but it was still much faster than travelling by ship.
After the war TEAL began flying the famous ‘Coral Route’ from Auckland to Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tahiti, opening up the Pacific to more New Zealanders. 1954 saw conversion to land planes on the trans-Tasman route, and in 1960 they took over the Coral Route as well.
The jet age
The most revolutionary change was the introduction of large jet aircraft on international routes in the 1960s. Faster travel, more airlines and services to choose from and cheaper fares from the 1970s encouraged more New Zealanders to travel overseas. Being able to boast about an overseas holiday became a symbol of success.
The numbers of New Zealanders going overseas for short breaks have increased dramatically in the past 50 years and continue to grow steadily. In 2011 there were 2.1 million short-term departures from New Zealand, compared with fewer than 40,000 in 1959–60.
Most popular destinations
In the early 2000s by far the most trips were taken in the Pacific, with Australia being easily the most popular destination. Possible reasons for this included its closeness to New Zealand and the fact that many New Zealanders had relatives in Australia. Another may have been that resorts in places such as the Gold Coast provide a welcome respite from winter cold. Fiji was the next most desired Pacific holiday location, followed by the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga, while Singapore and Thailand were also favoured.
As many New Zealanders were born in Pacific countries, people visiting family were included amongst the holidaymakers. This was probably also the case with travellers to China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and South Africa, which lured large numbers. Further afield the United Kingdom and the United States attracted the most New Zealand visitors.