Tourism operators are looking at making cutbacks as a result of fewer overseas visitors coming, and those that do spending less.

Jobs at Queenstown’s Millbrook Resort are set to go under a restructuring plan prepared in response to predictions of a poor summer season in the Southern Lakes district, The Southland Times reported.

Millbrook general manager David Onions said the economic slowdown and a drop in visitor numbers had forced the move to cut six jobs.

Air New Zealand said yesterday it would lay off 200 staff after a fall in demand for long-haul travel in recent months.

The Ministry of Tourism says tourism growth has been consistently slowing over the past eight months, but small positive growth is continuing.

Ministry statistics showed international visitor arrivals were up by only 0.3 per cent in the year to August.

Falling visitor numbers from Japan, the UK and South Korea contributed the most to the slowing.

There was a nine percent (over 11,000 visitors) decrease in Japanese visitors, with the UK decreasing by four percent (over 12,000 visitors) and South Korea decreasing by 19 percent, or over 20,000 fewer visitors than the year to August 2007.

But Australian visitor numbers were up by over 31,000 in the same period.

Visitors are continuing to spend, although spending by tourists from the US, Germany and Taiwan had fallen by a total of nearly 40 percent between 2007 and 2008.

Ministry general manager Ray Salter said the drop in visitors from South Korea could be explained by changes in ticket pricing, while UK visitor numbers were down from 2006, when Britons flocked to New Zealand for the Lions rugby tour.

New Zealanders have continued to travel overseas and spend, but the ministry is hoping they will stay in the country and spend money here, he said.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar said it would take at least another 12 months for the situation to improve .

“The market’s under quite a bit of stress at the moment. The last thing we want is a cutback in expenditure.”

Greg Beachen, owner of wine tour company The Grape Escape, said he has noticed a downturn in visitors, particularly in tourists travelling the country for three to six weeks.

“Kiwis are travelling more locally though, but that tends to be on the weekend, so our midweek numbers are down.

“Tourists are definitely spending less at the wineries on our tours.”

He said the cost of flying to New Zealand is the main reason travellers are being put off.

“It would be great if we could subsidise these airfares in some way to get them here. We should be offering cheaper flights… instead of wasting (money) on advertising campaigns.”