The man in charge of selling America to visitors from around the world says the "crazy" US election is not harming tourism.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has promised to put up a wall along the border with Mexico - the second biggest source of tourists to the United States - and railed against Muslims during his party's primary elections.

Christopher L Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, said his organisation was watching and waiting.

"Certainly the conversations and what's been presented through the election cycle is way different to what we've seen - so in many ways we're watching it like you are," he said.


"What's said during a campaign and what's said to get elected is often different to what they can do once they're in there."

In spite of Trump's Mexico policy, the number of visitors from there was up sharply in the past year, he said.

Thompson said whoever the new president is would get a "great legacy" from the Obama administration in the travel and tourism business.

President Barack Obama was instrumental in setting up Brand USA after taking office in 2009. Before then tourism promotion had been fragmented in the country which now attracts 77 million foreign visitors a year.

The biggest single group come from Canada (20 million) followed by Mexico, (just under 20 million) and then Britain (around five million)

Numbers were growing at just under five per cent a year and the country aimed to attract 100 million visitors a year by 2021.

Like many other countries, the fastest growth market for the US was China.

He said just under 300,000 New Zealanders visiting according to the most recent figures, up 11 per cent on the previous year, largely due to improved air links.

"The growing air services, growing number of carriers and expanded existing routes and new routes such as going into Houston - that gets them into the heartland of the country and get them to anywhere they want to go," said Thompson.

"With us having a bit of a challenge with the strong dollar lower air fares offset that."