Annual tourist spending in New Zealand was little changed as a rising number of low-spending Australians wasn't enough to make up for a decline in Korean and Japanese arrivals.

Some 2.62 million international visitors spent $5.64 billion in the 12 months ended March 31, compared to 2.51 million arrivals spending $5.63 billion a year earlier, according to Ministry of Economic Development figures. That excludes international airfares.

More Australian visitors taking advantage of a strong currency didn't result in a similar pick-up in spending, with the average spend among the 1.17 million tourists down 6 per cent at $1,500 a head.

Declining numbers of big-spending tourists from Japan and Korea stripped out $182 million of total spending in the year, though that was offset by an extra $390 million from the Rugby World Cup in the latter half of the year.


"Today's figures continue to significant decline in real tourist expenditure of the past seven years," Tourism Ministry research and evaluation manager Peter Ellis said in a statement. "This is mostly because of the increasing proportion of visitors who are relatively low-spending Australian residents."

The latest pick-up in total spending arrests three annual declines, though it's still at a subdued level and near a decade-low.

Tourism has struggled since the global financial crisis in 2008 eroded people's disposable income for big ticket holidays and the rising price of oil and strengthening New Zealand dollar dimmed the appeal of long-haul travel.

The government is hoping to attract an extra 200,000 visitor nights from a proposed Auckland convention centre.

The deal has sparked staunch opposition, as it would see casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group foot the $350 million tab to build and operate the venue in exchange for an extension to its gaming licence, which would let it underwrite the expense with more pokie machines.

Some 300,000 business travellers spent $598 million in the year ended March 31, compared to the same number spending $616 million a year earlier.

About 1.22 million visited New Zealand for a holiday, the same number as a year earlier, and spent $2.95 billion, compared to $2.97 billion.