A tourism leader says the New Zealand visitor industry has entered a ''new paradigm,'' able to withstand global shocks.

Speaking on the Economy Hub, Tourism Holdings chief executive Grant Webster said the surge in new air services was supporting unprecedented growth.

''As long as that continues to grow we're in a new paradigm. You could probably have a global shock or a regional shock,'' said Webster, who is also chairman of Tourism Industry Aotearoa.

Visitor numbers were rising at around 15 per cent a year and even if that dropped to 10 per cent, that was still impressive growth.


The strong propensity to travel by a growing middle class was now locked in among big markets including China, the source of New Zealand's second highest number of visitors after Australia.

Following the global financial crisis eight years ago, spending per visitor flattened or fell from traditional markets. Since then the Chinese market had surged.

International and domestic tourism was worth $32.5 billion a year and the industry was well on track for a 2025 target of $41b, he said.

The strain on infrastructure, especially hotels, was challenging and this would lead to some ''crowding out'' of New Zealand internal visitors at times over summer.

This would lead to greater dispersal of visitors to regional destinations, he said. His own business was eyeing expansion into other parts of the world, possibly Europe, after establishing motor home operations in Australia and the United States.