The value of international visitors could grow by more than $2.5 billion by the end of the decade, according to Auckland Airport.

The NZX-listed airport has launched an initiative called Ambition 2020, which assessed the potential of the tourism sector.

Auckland Airport said there was potential to grow visitor arrivals to more than 3.5 million by 2020, compared with 2.6 million last year.

Spending by visitors, excluding international airfares, could grow ahead of official estimates, to at least $8.5 billion, compared with $5.76 billion in 2011, the airport said.


Chief executive Simon Moutter said the airport had set itself some ambitious targets for tourism growth.

"We intend to do this by working with our airline customers to attract more flights, preferably direct, on more routes from key source travel markets around the world, and by working with the industry to attract a more valuable mix of visitor segments," Moutter said.

Auckland Airport was investing in Asia-specific training workshops, social media programmes, celebrity ambassadors and establishing joint promotions with tourism partners.

Glenn Wedlock, Auckland Airport general manager of aeronautical commercial, said Asia, especially China, would provide the largest growth.

"China is a vital growth market for New Zealand and we see the market developing from 160,000 today to over 430,000 arrivals by 2020."