Online flight searches indicate New Zealand may be experiencing a resurgence as a tourist destination among the British public.

Flight comparison website Skyscanner's Travel Trends 2012 report shows that flight searches for New Zealand made in Britain rose by 35.4 per cent last year.

Skyscanner is used by more than 15 million people a month to compare prices for millions of flights on thousands of different airlines.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the report was encouraging news.


"I think it's a good indication. But it's a really tough market, so we're not expecting it to turn around completely any time soon."

A toughening economic climate had seen British tourist numbers to New Zealand drop by about 15-20 per cent a year since 2009.

Mr Bowler said the Rugby World Cup helped to boost a significant drop in numbers earlier in 2011.

"Last year because of the rugby I think we were slightly negative [for British visitors], but we're a lot closer to being flat, in that 0-5 per cent kind of range," he said. "If we can hold that sort of stability over the next 12 months, we'd be really pleased."

Roughly 220,000 visitors come to New Zealand from Britain every year, making it our second-biggest market behind Australia.

Travel to New Zealand enjoyed a push from the Rugby World Cup, with 133,200 visitors coming for the tournament, up from a forecast of 95,000 for July through to the end of October. Over that period, visitor numbers from Britain rose by 2800.

"We're optimistic that off the back of all the hype and the great experiences that the British visitors had over the rugby ... that buzz will help grow visitor numbers in 2012," Mr Bowler said. "A number of the travel sellers up there are reasonably confident about this summer and 2012."

35.4 per cent
increase in flight searches to NZ made in Britain

15 million
use Skyscanner site a month

visitors come to New Zealand from the UK every year

visitors came for the Rugby World Cup