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Freedom camper numbers double in two years

Nearly one in five German tourists go freedom camping while in New Zealand. Photo: AllWays Rental NZ/Creative Commons

The number of international tourists freedom camping in New Zealand has nearly doubled in just two years.

Figures, released by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show the number of tourists who ‘did some freedom camping’ during their stay increased from 60,000 in 2015, to 110,000 in 2017.

Longer term, the number had increased nearly six-fold from 2005 when just 20,000 international tourists freedom camping. Overall, freedom campers account for three per cent of all visitors.

The amount of spending by freedom camping tourists also increased significantly, from $290m in 2015 to $530m in 2017. Those tourists spent an average of $4700 each on their trip. But on average, freedom campers spent less than half as much a day as other tourists ($90 compared with $190).

Freedom camping tourists stayed an average of 51 days in 2017, three times longer than other visitors (17 days).

German visitors were the most likely to freedom camp, with 17 per cent –  16,000 a year – freedom camping on their trip, compared to UK tourists, who were the next highest, with six per cent. But Australians made up the largest group of freedom campers, with 28,000.

MBIE has not released figures on tourists for whom freedom camping was their main form of accommodation for their stay, as the sample size of the research was just 70, meaning the figures were unreliable.

International visitor numbers reached record levels in 2917, with 3.7 million visitor arrivals, up 6.7 per cent on 2016.