New Zealand needs tourists who spend more money, rather than just more people through the airport gates, says Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key.
A report on the industry shows that although more visitors are arriving, they are staying for fewer days and spending less money.
That's partly because a large proportion of the growth in visitor numbers had been in low-spending Australians.
Mr Key said the Government intended to spend $500 million in the next four years on tourism promotion, including an additional $158 million announced in this year's Budget.
Spending would be focused on areas including new markets and the wealthy to see "if we can lift the number of people coming and the quality of tourist that comes to New Zealand", Mr Key said.
"Part of what we're trying to do is make sure we don't just get more people coming through the airport and coming to New Zealand for a couple of days ... we want them to come here, spend money, and have a quality experience."
Mr Key spoke at the launch yesterday of the tourism sector report by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
It shows Australians make up 45 per cent of the 2.6 million tourists who visit every year, up from 31 per cent 10 years ago.
They spend the least money while here - an average of $2017 each per visit, compared with $3449 for Chinese visitors and $3502 for tourists from the United Kingdom.
However, Australian tourists still contributed $2.19 billion in the year to June, far above any other single country.
Visitors from all countries had been spending less and staying for fewer days since the global financial crisis in 2009. A greater proportion of visitors were those seeing friends and relatives, who spend less money on their trip than holidaymakers did.
Fewer high-spending visitors from the UK and Japan were coming to New Zealand, the report said, and those markets were expected to decline further.
But there had been growth in visitor number from China, up 31 per cent in the past year.
The rising wealth of Pacific rim countries also presented opportunities for New Zealand, said Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
"The number of people who can travel within one flight from Auckland is growing constantly and quickly," he said.
"So we have lots of opportunities, but again the products will have to evolve to reflect the needs and interests of these new tourists."
The industry needed to develop a better understanding of those markets and new packages to attract higher-value business.
The tourism report is the fifth of seven key industries.
*More than 2.6 million people visited New Zealand in the year to March 2013
*45 per cent of visitors are from Australia, up from 31 per cent in 2003
*Visitors from all markets on average spend $2671 each, down from $3704 in 2003
*Visitors from all markets stay nine nights on average, down from 10 in 2003
*Australian visitors stay seven nights and spend $2017 on average
*Chinese visitors stay four nights and spend $3449 on average
*UK visitors stay 20 nights and spend $3502 on average