Waiheke Island has been dubbed a must-visit destination for 2013 by the New York Times - a tourism coup an Auckland advertising executive says many would give their eye teeth for.

Waiheke shared the eclectic list with megacities such as Rio de Janeiro, the far-flung Falkland Islands, romantic Paris, the Republic of Congo and ski resort Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

The newspaper noted the island's vineyards, its proximity to Auckland, and mentions "embracing its bohemian side".

It pitched the biennial arts festival Headland Sculpture on the Gulf, which starts on January 25 and features 30 new pieces "installed along a stunningly scenic coastal path", as part of that attraction for travellers.


Whybin/TBWA advertising group chief executive David Walden said the paper's reach and reputation was priceless.

"It talks to a hell of a lot of people. It's seen as impartial, it gets a conversation going and I think if you're a PR person you'd give your eye teeth to get your client on that list.

"The reality is New Zealand has a very small marketing budget," he said. "To come here is a big ask, it's an expensive place to fly to and you have to make a commitment in terms of time.

"This kind of publicity is gold - people are much more inclined to read a list like this that's presented in an interesting way than to watch a TV commercial and look at an ad."

The paper took Tourism New Zealand's "100 per cent Pure campaign" to task last November when Victoria University lecturer Dr Mike Joy criticised the country's pollution record.

But Mr Walden did not believe it did any lasting damage to the sector. Tourism New Zealand did not respond to a request for comment.

Project manager for the festival Nicky Cairns, an island resident for 17 years, said she was delighted but was stumped about how the event had come to the paper's attention.

She did not expect a huge bump in numbers attending this year but said the effect could be long-term.


"It certainly puts us on the map, the focus is to create an international event - hopefully people will look at it and plan for future travel to New Zealand."

She was happy to share the island's magic with all-comers.

"It's an incredible community ... we've got a lovely, casual, laidback sort of lifestyle, we're diverse, supportive, we've got this blossoming food and wine industry. It's a pretty special place - you really do need to come over and see it for yourself."