Luxury tourism is booming but lodge owners say luring local staff is a problem and another operator says the country could be doing better by widening its approach to marketing.
Tourism New Zealand says spending in the luxury lodge sector has risen more than 20 per cent during the last year, claiming a bigger chunk of a global market potentially worth US$46 trillion ($65t).
In 2013, $20 million was tagged to marketing premium experiences for four years and Lisa Gardiner, manager for premium and business events for Tourism NZ, said the number of visitors and spending in this sector was increasing.
Lodges can charge up to $20,000 a night for large multi-room places.
The marketing body says there are 12 million high net-worth individuals worldwide with US$46 trillion in liquid assets.
A large number are based in some of Tourism NZ's target markets of North America (28 per cent), Europe (20 per cent), Asia (20 per cent) and Latin America (10 per cent).
Tourism NZ considers that the biggest growth opportunities exist with the top 10 per cent of the world's wealthy - the very and ultra-high net-worth individuals with liquid assets of US$5m-30m plus.
Luxury Lodges NZ chairman Murray McCaw said more wealthy visitors were coming outside the high season and well into winter.
"People from places such as the southern USA, parts of India and China are wanting to escape the searing heat."
About 40 per cent of guests came from the United States. European countries and Britain remained strong, and Singapore and Hong Kong were increasing strongly, he said.
McCaw is director of the Bay of Many Coves lodge in Marlborough and said he struggled to attract Kiwi workers for its 23 staff positions. Most of the 29 lodges among the association's members were in remote spots.
"You've got to be the sort of person that wants to live in that environment. If we were relying on Kiwis to fill our chef team we wouldn't have a ... business."
McCaw said that while the Chinese market offered huge potential, there was a danger in "turning on the tap" too quickly.
"People who go to lodges want to see a spectrum of guests," he said.
One luxury experience operator, Jean-Michael Jefferson of Ahipara Luxury Travel, said there's a danger of putting too much emphasis on the accommodation alone.
"In marketing we need to be aware of what our strengths are - all clients live in countries where they can have equal or better luxury lodges."