Spending by overseas and domestic tourists has soared by more than 20 per cent in the past two years.

The Tourism Industry Association estimates that in the year to March spending will reach $32.5 billion, with the value of tourism growing three times faster than volume.

Association chief executive Chris Roberts said the industry was well ahead of schedule in working towards a $41 billion annual spend.

"Two years on, and the industry's performance has exceeded all forecasts. We are well ahead of the growth rate needed to reach our $41 billion goal by 2025," he said.


About 300,000 people work directly or indirectly in tourism and that number had increased by 15,000 during the past two years.

"Tourism businesses are reaping the financial rewards and New Zealand society has benefited with more jobs, more economic activity and the vibrancy visitors bring as they travel around our country."

The number of international arrivals had risen by more than 15 per cent to 3.2 million in the past year, helped by airline capacity ramping up. The spike in tourism, particularly for summer months, has led government marketing body Tourism New Zealand to shift its focus to promote the shoulder seasons.

"Outside of the short peak periods we have lots of spare capacity. We still need to have more success in growing the shoulder," said Roberts.

Tourists were still concentrated on the main tourism "hotspots."

"There's been no evidence of dispersal in the past two years."

Roberts said while there had been some concern about too many tourists coming to the country, the figures did not back this up.

"Even in the peak season it is relatively low by international standards. On any one day in the peak season there are six visitors for every 100 residents."