International Visitor Survey figures for the year to the end of Jun' />

US tourists have overtaken the Japanese to become NZ's most lucrative visitors.

International Visitor Survey figures for the year to the end of June (compiled by polling departing travellers as they leave New Zealand airports) show US tourists spend an average $4469 in New Zealand.

Average spending by Japanese visitors dropped 10 per cent during the year to $4318 a visit.

Overall, the 1.8 million travellers who visited New Zealand spent just over $5 billion, an increase of $657 million (15 per cent) on the previous 12 months.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said that while the number of US visitors had remained static over recent months, yield had continued to grow despite a slowing of the US economy. US visitors spent a total of $821 million in New Zealand during the year.

"This reflects general trends in the US that have seen higher consumer spending, despite talk of a recession."

Mr Hickton said Japanese visitor numbers had been increasing, but total expenditure from that market was down 4 per cent to $680 million.

Total spending by visitors from Australia, NZ's largest market, was up 8.7 per cent during the year to $902 million.