China was the second largest inbound market through Auckland Airport during a 12-month period, overtaking both the United States and Britain for the first time.
Chinese visitor numbers at the airport were up 74.2 per cent to 13,316 for September compared with the same month last year, according to figures released yesterday.
For the 12 months there were close to 180,000 Chinese visitors, up 35 per cent on the previous year.
The airport's monthly figures show Australia easily remains the most important source of visitors with 59,413 arrivals.
More New Zealanders travelled to the Pacific Islands and Queensland during September than they did in the same month last year.
This was partly attributable to the number of Kiwis who had deferred travel during the Rugby World Cup taking trips this year instead.
Domestic passenger numbers were strong at both Auckland Airport and at affiliate airports - Queenstown and in Queensland - in September.
Domestic passengers were up 11.3 per cent on last year at Auckland Airport, 27.1 per cent up at Queenstown Airport and 9.7 per cent up at Cairns Airport.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the continuing surge in Chinese visitor numbers was significant for the tourism industry.
"However, although the number of arrivals are high, Chinese stay on average for significantly fewer days than visitors from the United States and Europe, which remain priority markets for Tourism New Zealand."
Auckland Airport holds its annual meeting today at 2pm at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau.
NZ holds No 1 spot for Aussie short haul travellers
More Australians want to visit New Zealand than any other short-haul destination.
Although still in top spot with 12.9 per cent, this has fallen from its peak of 15.1 per cent before the Christchurch earthquake in February last year, according to a Roy Morgan Holiday Tracking Survey.
Fiji and other South Pacific Islands such as Vanuatu are also favoured destinations, with 8 per cent of Australians wanting to holiday there.
Qantas and Tourism New Zealand have set up a travelator at Sydney Airport to showcase the best of the North Island to customers.
The travelator resembles an aircraft fuselage, is 27m long and as customers walk through it they see images of North Island attractions.By Grant Bradley Email Grant