Local travellers swelled New Zealand's accommodation numbers for a second month in August, as international visitors' guest nights tapered away for a 12th month.

Total guest nights rose 4.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 2.86 million in August compared to the same month a year earlier, as domestic visitors gained 14 per cent to 1.42 million, while international guest nights dropped 1 per cent to 781,000, according to Statistics New Zealand.

The department said the monthly decline in international guest nights was the smallest of the past 12, and it expects accommodation got a lift from the Rugby World Cup, which kicked off in September.

Visitors at backpackers reported the biggest gain in August, up 6.2 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 383,000, followed by a 5.3 per cent increase in guest nights at motels, motor inns and apartments to 944,000.

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Hotels and resorts reported a 3 per cent gain to 955,000 in the month, while guest nights at holiday parks fell 1.1 per cent to 604,000.

The tourism sector has been struggling in recent years as the global financial crisis sapped people's disposable income for long-haul holidays, and that's been exaggerated by a strong New Zealand dollar eroding visitors' spending power. Rising fuel prices, the 2009 swine flu pandemic and this year's Chile volcano have also made air travel less attractive.

Still, the Rugby World Cup is expected to have attracted an extra 95,000 visitors, and give the industry a much needed fillip.