The Christchurch earthquake has hit New Zealand's position as Australia's favourite holiday destination, according to new research.

Roy Morgan Research said today the number of Australians who would like to take a break across the Tasman had dived since last year's disaster, placing the United States on level pegging as the most preferred country for a foreign vacation for Australians.

Roy Morgan International director of tourism, travel and leisure Jane Ianniello said many Australians were still interested in a Kiwi holiday.

But the big quake in February last year had taken its toll _ and not only in the South Island.


"The widespread media coverage of the Christchurch earthquake in late February 2011 and the subsequent June quake has caused the `shaky isles' of New Zealand to lose appeal as a holiday destination,'' Ms Ianniello said.

"Both North and South islands have suffered a decline in the number of Australians who would like to holiday there.''

Roy Morgan found that the number of Australians aged 14 and over who said they wanted to holiday in New Zealand in the next two years was 2.5 million in the year to December 2011.

This was up from 2.2 million in December 2008, but down from a peak of 2.8 million immediately before the quake.

The US had grown strongly in popularity, with 2.5 million in December 2011 saying they would like to take a holiday there in the next two years.

This was up from 1.8 million in December 2008.

Roy Morgan said England had suffered a slight decline in holiday preference since the London riots in early August 2011, but at 2.3 million for December 2011 was still higher than December 2008.

However, while New Zealand may have fallen as their preferred travel destination, Statistics New Zealand figures showed Australian visitor numbers were still increasing.

In the year to December, 2011, 1,296,864 Australians made short-term visits to New Zealand - up nearly 50,000 from the previous year, when 1,249,735 paid a transtasman visit.