The importance of tourism is stressed in spending data released today by Stats NZ, which offered its thoughts to those visitors and their families affected by the Whakaari/White Island eruption.

The figures showed that increased spending by international and domestic tourists saw total tourism spending reach $40.9 billion in the year ended March 2019.

Stats NZ said the figure was up 4.0 per cent ($1.6b) on the previous year, following an 8.1 per cent increase the year before that, according to the Tourism satellite account.

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International tourist spending increased to $17.2b, up 5.2 per cent ($843m) from the previous year.

The number of short-term arrivals to New Zealand increased 1.3 per cent over the same period.

Spending by domestic tourists increased to $23.7b in the latest year, up 3.3 per cent ($746m).

Other key provisional estimates for the year ended March this year:

•International tourism expenditure contributed 20.4 per cent to New Zealand's total exports of goods and services.
•Tourists generated $3.8 billion in goods and services tax (GST) revenue, with $1.8b coming from international tourists.
•Tourism generated a direct contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) of $16.2 billion, or 5.8 per cent of GDP.
•The indirect value added of industries supporting tourism generated an additional $11.2b, or 4.0 per cent of GDP.

Stats NZ said 229,566 people were directly employed in tourism (8.4 per cent of the total number of people employed in New Zealand), an increase of 3.9 per cent from the previous year.

Spending by cruise ship passengers increased by 28 per cent to nearly $570m.

While the rate of growth in the number of international visitors has slowed, average spending per person has increased, in line with tourism groups' aims of targeting higher-value visitors.