The Rugby World Cup and the Canterbury earthquakes had a strong impact on regional patterns in tourism spending last year, according to Government research.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today released its latest Regional Tourism Estimates, showing international and domestic travellers spent $15.1 billion in 2011, up five per cent from 2010.

Dunedin and Timaru experienced the highest increase in tourism spending, up 11 per cent, followed by Auckland and Waitaki with 10 per cent, and Waikato with nine per cent.

The Christchurch earthquake had a big impact on regional differences within tourism during 2011, said tourism research and evaluation manager Peter Ellis.


Tourism spending in Christchurch dropped by ten per cent to $1.8 billion, led by a 22 per cent fall in international visitor nights, he said.

"But nearby regions like Timaru, Dunedin and Waitaki saw increases in tourism spending, a likely result of more domestic flows from Christchurch following the February earthquake.

"Auckland's good year for tourism was largely a result of the Rugby World Cup," Ellis said.

Overall, there were 105.1 million international and domestic visitor nights last year, up three per cent from 2010.

Auckland visitor nights grew six per cent to 24.9 million, Christchurch was down seven per cent to 12.1 million visitor nights, and Wellington had 7.3 million visitor nights, up seven per cent.

Visitors spent $4.7 billion in Auckland, and $1.4 billion in Wellington.

The Regional Tourism Estimates are a yearly analysis of the Ministry's domestic and international tourism research. They are the best available estimate of regional differences in tourism trends.