Tourism New Zealand says its focus on promoting the country during off-peak months is paying off.

The latest international visitor arrival figures show that 2018 was the most popular spring yet, attracting 927,512 visitors - which was up 5.0 per cent on 2017 and outpaced annual visitor arrival growth of 3.6 per cent.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall said seasonal spread of visitors was important to ensure a more productive and sustainable tourism sector.

"Tourism New Zealand dedicates 100 per cent of its marketing budget towards promoting New Zealand as an off-peak destination, spreading the benefits tourism delivers throughout the year," said England-Hall.


"With more visitors arriving between March and November, tour operators, hotels, cafes and other businesses have a steadier, more reliable stream of income throughout the year, resulting in more opportunities for businesses, local investment and employment."

ASB economists said the strong arrival numbers in the three months from September helped take annual visitor numbers to 3.847 million, a record high.

Driving the annual increase in tourism numbers was further strengthening in inflows from Australia, Asia and North America.

However, tourism inflows from Europe look to have peaked, consistent with signs of recent economic weakness in the Eurozone economy. A lower New Zealand dollar would help boost incomes, but more tourism infrastructure and better utilisation of the NZ tourist offering in the shoulder and low seasons would also help support incomes in the sector going forward, the ASB said.

Encounter Kaikoura owner Lynette Buurman said the flow of visitors throughout the year meant the business was in a position to support the community more widely.

"We're so grateful to all the overseas travellers for enabling us to expand into a larger operation - meaning we can employ lots of locals, and now many overseas seasonal staff too," said Buurman.

"The expansion of the business has enabled us to do so much more to help the community as well as enrich the natural capital we are so dependent on.''

Kaikoura has recovered strongly from the 2016 earthquake that temporarily cut road and rail links.


The company has set up the Encounter Foundation which is a not for profit entity funded by a percentage of each fare it takes.

"We've been able to support the development of walking trails, restorative planting, hector dolphin research, the local playcentre, community education, our movie theatre and so many other things."