Tourists are estimated to spend more than $1.24 billion a year in Northland by 2023, with international arrivals forecast to grow by 52 per cent during that period.

The region currently earns slightly more than $1b, and the country more than $26b, a year from tourism but those numbers as well as visitor arrivals, are poised to grow significantly over the next six years.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates are contained in the New Zealand Tourism Forecasts for 2017/23.

Northland Inc's regional promotions and tourism general manager, Paul Davis, said Chinese visitors' main destination would continue to be the bigger cities although they would still be interested in visiting Northland.

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"There's massive potential for Northland from the Chinese market but our focus will still be on higher independent travellers. There are other international markets that are also poised to grow in Northland like India and South America," he said.

Estimated tourism earnings for Northland this year will be $1.061b with the Far North raking in $496m, Whangarei $453m and Kaipara $113m.

Kiwis will spend the most at $783m followed by Australians $73m, US $44m, and the remaining $100 from other destinations.

The international visitor spend in Northland will increase from $217 million this year to $329 million in 2023.

Last year, Northland earned $1.037b that comprised of $481m from the Far North, $447m from Whangarei while Kaipara received $109m.

The ministry said international visitor arrivals to New Zealand are forecast to increase from 3.5 million last year to 4.9 million in 2023 but regional breakdown is not available as it's not known where they will visit after arriving at international airports in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.

Strong growth in international visitors will be driven by an increase in airline capacity, low travel costs, and international events planned in New Zealand such as the British and Irish Lions' tour which featured a game in Whangarei on June 3.

China is expected to become New Zealand's largest tourism market by spend during the forecast period, reaching $4.3 billion annually by 2023.

Chinese visitors currently spend about $8 million a year in Northland.

According to Statistics NZ, Northland's best performing sectors income-wise at the end of 2015 were tourism ($902m), manufacturing ($785m), owner-occupied property operation ($536m), Forestry, fishing, mining, electricity, water, gas and waste resources ($407m), and agriculture ($402m).