New Zealand is losing its appeal to its most important source of overseas visitors - Australia, according to a survey.
Research across the Tasman finds the number of Australians intending to visit this year has fallen, due partly to fallout from the Christchurch earthquakes and the lure of the United States.
The latest Roy Morgan Holiday Tracking Survey finds the United States has topped New Zealand as a preferred holiday spot.
The proportion of Australians who'd like to holiday in the US has grown by more than a quarter in the last five years from 10.4 per cent in December 2007 to 14.1 per cent in December 2012.
New Zealand has slipped from a high of 15.1 per cent before the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 to sit at 12.7 per cent - the same level as five years ago.
Roy Morgan's international director of tourism, travel and leisure, Jane Ianniello, said that with the strong Australian dollar and cheaper airfares the United States had become a more appealing and affordable destination for Australians.
"By contrast, the widespread media coverage of the Christchurch earthquake in late February 2011, followed by the June 2011 quake, has caused the 'Shaky Isles' of New Zealand to lose favour as a holiday destination. The popularity of both islands has been adversely affected," she said.
Statistics New Zealand figures show the number of tourists from Australia dipped a fraction last year to 1,155,792, down 634 from 2011.
The 2011 figure was boosted by Rugby World Cup visitors and Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said numbers were up 3 per cent on the year before the tournament.
"We still see opportunities in that market particularly in special interest around ski-ing, the new cycle ways, there's a whole lot of new things that Australians haven't found out about New Zealand," he said.
The figures for last year show a 6 per cent rise to 476,000 in the number of arrivals from Australia visiting friends and relatives, not traditionally the highest spenders.
"We'd like to see the holiday segment of the market growing more than it is. Obviously holiday makers are going to spend more consuming products and services," said Bowler.By Grant Bradley Email Grant