Services Exporter Survey – Key Findings

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About the Services Exporter Survey Dashboard

This page summarises findings from the 2017 and 2021 Services Exporter Surveys. A total of 79 New Zealand businesses participated in the survey in 2021, and 149 in 2017. The survey was open to all service exporters that were currently exporting, had exported in the last five years, or were planning to export services to an offshore market.

The survey findings identified changes in the export environment, with the impact of COVID-19 being a key theme throughout. Respondents identified the biggest barriers they faced when exporting and further highlighted ways in which MFAT could support their business.

The results of this survey will help inform MFAT's ongoing work in engaging and collaborating with New Zealand exporters and supporting overall export growth.

Impact of Covid-19

Nearly three quarters of the 79 respondents reported that COVID-19 impacted exporting activity. Around half of those impacted saw export activity increase, while half experienced decline. (1)

Why did export activity change?

Impact of Covid pie graph.
  • More consumer demand (i.e. changes in demand during lockdown, e.g. more gaming)
  • Innovation and digitalisation has allowed flexibility to work from home
  • Critical/government funded services
  • Constraints with travel/border restrictions
  • Large capital projects on hold/business slowed/closed during lockdown

44% of exporters had their service delivery impacted by Covid-19

95% of those impacted cited travel restrictions as the main change

  • 44% of exporters had their service delivery impacted by COVID-19. Education services were hit hard with 82% of them experiencing service delivery changes. (2)
  • 95% of those impacted cited travel restrictions as the main change, using virtual means to communicate with clients. Around 5% sent people offshore for longer.

Market Change 2017–2021

In 2021, respondents exported, planned to export or have exported to 50 markets around the world. Nearly a third of respondents said they use multi-country online platforms to export their services.

Market change diagram.

The proportion of respondents exporting to Canada, Brazil, the UK, USA, Peru, Columbia and ‘other Middle East’ countries grew by 5% or more between the 2017 and 2021 surveys. The proportion exporting to Australia fell by 10%.

% difference between 2017 and 2021.

Barriers and support

54% of exporters surveyed in 2021 identified at least one market that presented barriers or had a negative impact on their ability to sell services. Around 34% reported no significant barriers.

Of those exporting to the following countries, these are the percentages of exporters that ranked China, Australia or USA as markets that presented the biggest barriers: (3)

23% China

21% USA

19% Australia

Types of barriers faced

In COVID-impacted 2021, 23% of responses said delivery of service was the highest priority barrier to address, compared with 4% in 2017. (4)

Types of barriers faced.

What support do exporters want from MFAT?

Businesses were keen to see MFAT assistance in the following areas. In COVID-impacted 2021, the main areas they wanted MFAT support with was in obtaining information about markets and with the actual delivery of the service they were providing. This was comparable with 2017, where the main support businesses were seeking from MFAT were around procurement processes and financial issues.

Comparison 2017-2021.

Notes about the survey

Data sources

2017 Service Exporter Survey (data provided by Neilson)

2021 Service Exporter Survey (data provided by Neilson)

Data quality and limitations

There are limitations to the survey data used to compile this analysis. As there were only 79 respondents for the 2021 survey, it cannot be assumed that the findings are representative of all New Zealand service exporters. It should also be noted that respondents engaged on an opt-in basis and therefore there is potential for selection bias.

More information

If you have any questions about the survey, the methodology or the findings please contact TPND’s Services Investment and Digital Unit at


1. The question asked was ‘What impact has the COVID pandemic (since early 2020) had on your exporting or planned exporting activities to overseas markets?’. The results are broken down in more detail below:

Answer  # %
Decreased a lot 19 25%
Decreased a little 13 17%
No real change 17 23%
Increased a little 15 20%
Increased a lot 8 11%
NA/Don’t know 3 4%

2. This analysis only considers exporters who are currently or have previously exported (75 of the total 79 respondents).

Responding businesses were asked to identify which of the markets to which they are currently exporting, planning or have previously exported, present the most severe barriers and obstacles to their business.

3. They were asked to rank up to five markets which present the most severe barriers or have the most negative impact on their ability to sell services internationally, with the option to indicate if they do not face any significant barriers.

4. This chart shows the percentage of responses which identified a particular barrier. An individual exporter could identify a barrier more than once (in different markets), or multiple different barriers in one market.

Produced by IMD’s KIA team (


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