New Zealand guest nights hit an annual record in August as both domestic and international tourism numbers continue to climb.

In the year ended August 31, there were a record 39.98 million guest nights in hotels, motels, holiday parks and backpackers, up 2.5 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.

Of the four categories, only backpacker guest nights were down, falling 1.6 per cent to five million, Statistics New Zealand said. Hotels were the most popular, up 3.6 per cent to 14 million.

"Guest nights spent at hotels have more than doubled in the past 20 years and are now the most popular type of accommodation," said accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie

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The data doesn't include private accommodation, which covers bed and breakfasts, holiday homes and Airbnb.

Of the annual total, there were 22.5 million domestic guest nights and 17.5 million international guest nights.

The areas registering the strongest growth in the past year were Christchurch, Queenstown-Lakes, and Rotorua. Auckland region's guest nights fell 1.4 per cent following a record August 2017 year.

Tourism has been a key factor underpinning the economy, with annual tourism arrivals hitting a record 3.8 million in the year to the end of August.

Total guest nights in August rose to 2.5 million, up 3.4 per cent from a year earlier. A 5.3 per cent lift in domestic guest nights to 1.57 million outpaced a 0.4 per cent increase in international guest nights to 953,000. Total guest nights eased compared to July when they were 2.7 million.

Hotel guest nights lifted 4 per cent in August from the same month a year earlier, motels were up 3.6 per cent and holiday parks were up 8.1 per cent. Backpackers, meanwhile, slid 3.7 per cent.

The occupancy rate across accommodation types lifted 0.8 of a percentage point in August to 36.5 per cent. Hotel occupancy was the highest while holiday parks were the lowest.