Deal with travel company to promote city as a destination rather than a gateway paying off, says tourism boss.
This year has proved to be a golden summer for both holiday-makers and Auckland tourism industry operators.
Hotels have some weekends been full to overflowing through a surge of Australian arrivals and New Zealanders in the city for big events, especially during February.
Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed) tourism manager Jason Hill says hotel occupancy in February was up nearly 6 percentage points on the year before to 93.2 per cent.
"We've obviously had a huge events season this summer. Through certain nights there wasn't a bed to be had."
In January, domestic guest nights were up 4 per cent to 337,000 and February was even stronger with events such as the Auckland Nines rugby league tournament and Bruce Springsteen concerts attracting huge numbers of domestic visitors.
More Australians were also arriving, with about 1.2 million visitors a year and more than 700,000 visiting Auckland.
Arrivals in Auckland for January this year were up 9 per cent compared with January last year, while arrivals for the full year to January 2014 were up 5 per cent compared with that for the previous year.
Hill said the city was benefiting from a deal done with Flight Centre, now into its second year, which promotes Auckland as a short-stay destination with packages around four categories - nature and wildlife, food and wine, water, and adventure - rather than as a gateway to pass through.
"We took the bull by the horns at an early stage. Rather than try and work with all the travel agencies in Australia in a small and piecemeal way, we picked the largest partner in the market," he said.
"In conjunction with Auckland Airport we asked what it would take to be a hero destination competing with London, Paris, Fiji and Bali and invested $500,000 and they [Flight Centre] agreed to match that with inkind promotions and cash."
In its first year this had resulted in 15,000 more Australians booking through the agency.
Activities in Auckland are promoted.
"We've added a new layer of themeing. We're really focusing on the what to do in Auckland rather than the where to stay and how to get here."
The move was in line with Flight Centre's own strategy of selling the entire package - the experience in the destination rather than just the cheapest flights and accommodation.
"While those two are very important, they're what you remember when they go wrong, not what you remember when they go right."
Hill said the Australian market was crucial, accounting for about half the overseas visitors, but there was room for growth.
Australians made 24 million trips a year internally and although New Zealand was "almost a domestic destination in their eyes", it only got 1.2 million. Hill said the aim was to get to 3 million.
• 93.2% Auckland hotel occupancy rate in February, up from 87.4% last year.
• 9% rise in arrivals in Auckland for January versus last year.
• 5% rise in arrivals for the full year to January.