International tourists are flocking to Hawke's Bay as the region capitalises on the country's tourism gold rush.

Statistics New Zealand figures show international visitor nights in the Bay grew 21.7 per cent this February compared with February last year.

Total visitor nights increased almost 10 per cent in the last 12 months on the back of strong domestic figures.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said she's "brilliantly pleased".


"We've had a pretty horrible few years, so it's really nice to see.

"Not only are we growing but compared to other regions we're doing really well," she said.

Almost 500,000 visitors - domestic and international - stayed more than 1 million total nights in the 12 months to February.

The number of tourists was likely to be higher than this, as visitors also stayed in non-commercial accommodation - such as with family or friends, or a private bed and breakfast - and were unable to be counted.

Ms Dundas said the figures were bolstered by a return of travellers from Western countries.

"Our key markets are the UK, Europe and Australia, and those numbers haven't been particularly strong over the last few years because of the recession. So I guess the nice thing is the Brits are back," she said.

A successful Art Deco weekend had contributed to the strong February figures.

Nationwide, commercial guest nights in February 2016 were 7 per cent higher than a year earlier. Nights were almost evenly split between domestic and international tourists, making up 51 and 49 per cent of the figures respectively.

Year-on-year, tourist numbers from all of New Zealand's top 10 international markets increased more than 5 per cent. The largest of these was a 27 per cent increase in tourists from China, followed by 21 per cent growth from Korea and 19 per cent from India.

The Tourism Industry Association said international tourism was experiencing massive success but the value of domestic travel was "often overlooked". Chief executive Chris Roberts said domestic tourism was worth $18.1 billion last year - significantly more than the $11.8 billion international market.

Mr Roberts said New Zealanders' strong summer holiday tradition was great for the industry, but encouraging travel outside of those months was a "major goal".

"There's no silver bullet for encouraging domestic tourism. [The challenge is] how do we get that discretionary dollar spent on having a great weekend away, as opposed to maybe buying a TV for the bedroom," Mr Roberts said.

He said most people were prepared to travel only three hours by car, so encouraging air travel was crucial to opening up more of the country to travellers.

He said recent competition between airlines has also been "excellent".