Tourism New Zealand says a big digital push is paying off with a surge in the number of referrals to industry businesses in the past year.

The organisation, which has responsibility for marketing New Zealand as a destination overseas, says there were about two million referrals to tourism businesses through its digital channels, 50 per cent up on the year before.

Chief executive Kevin Bowler said the number of visits to had increased 29 per cent to 14.1 million.

Visitors were still using the site primarily for research and investigation. Research found that 81 per cent were more likely to travel to New Zealand as a result of visiting the website.


Bowler said there was no charge for local tourism businesses to list on the site and about 7000 were listed.

Tourism NZ in July launched a mobile travel app - Essential New Zealand - which has just won a design award and makes it easier for travellers to access information on the go while in New Zealand, without the need for a Wi-Fi connection.

"This is already showing results for the industry with the app accessed by over 25,000 users to date."

Tourism NZ has a total budget of $113 million a year with about $60 million spent on advertising.

Bowler said bookings looked strong for the coming tourist high season across the board with the United States a standout and the release of the second Hobbit film would give this market more impetus.

"Even in the most challenging markets such as the United Kingdom we're seeing quite positive signs. It may not be at historical levels but we're in for a very good summer," he said.