Auckland Airport had its busiest week on record this month, but the company says it is still in the dark about what was driving the demand.

The airport, which is the largest gateway to New Zealand, saw more than 170,000 international passenger arrivals and departures in the week ended January 8, up from around 165,000 during the same week last year, said spokesman Richard Llewellyn.

He said it was busier than even the busiest week of the Rugby World Cup period - the week ended October 30, which saw around 150,000 international arrivals and departures.

And in the lead-up to the record week the airport had seen consistent weeks of "160,000-plus" arrivals and departures, Llewellyn said. "We've had strong demand throughout the December and January periods."


However, Llewellyn said that the company would not know the country of origin of the travellers until Statistics New Zealand released figures for this month in February, as the firm held information only on the total numbers.

"What [the Statistics NZ figures] tell us is whether there was a sudden spike in demand from China or Australia [for example] or even from outbound New Zealand," Llewellyn said.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said there was a pretty good chance that visitor numbers from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and China would be strong this month. "Overall, I think the summer looks like it's going to be a pretty good summer with some markets edging ahead of last year," Bowler said.

But industry insiders have been warning of a tough year ahead for tourism businesses.

Inbound Tourism Operators Council president Martin Horgan told the Business Herald last week that the strength of the New Zealand dollar and international economic instability were hurting arrivals.

"There are some wonderful opportunities out there still and we're seeing a lot of growth out of places like China, but our traditional markets like the UK and Europe and USA, numbers are not so good and in decline at this stage."

Auckland Airport shares, which have risen almost 22 per cent since August, closed up 6.5c at $2.59 last night.