The number of holidaymakers flocking to Auckland has cracked one million for the first time, and China is now the leading source of tourists visiting the City of Sails.

Holiday visitors to Auckland totalled 1.05 million in 2015, according to the latest international travel and migration data from Statistics New Zealand.

While Australia remains the main source of overall visitors to the country's biggest city, China has for the first time topped the table for those visiting for a holiday.

The 1.05 million figure is 15 per cent up on the 912,000 holidaymakers who arrived in the Super City in 2014.


Last year, just over 241,000 Chinese holidaymakers visited -- up 37 per cent on the 2014 total -- and 237, 660 Australians crossed the Ditch.

Auckland also had a record 2,217,000 international visitors in 2015, up 9 per cent from the year before.

This includes business visits, which rose 4 per cent to 208,300.

There were also big increases in the number of visitors from Korea (up 20 per cent to 31,300), Japan (up 19 per cent to 49,200), the United States (up 14 per cent to 109,790) and Britain (up 12 per cent to 60,200).

Brett O'Riley, chief executive of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), said 2015 was the largest tourism year in the city's history, and the 15 per cent growth in holiday visitors was an impressive jump.

"The increase has been led by China and Australia, but it's great to see the return of the traditional high-yielding markets of Japan and United States."

Mr O'Riley said new direct Auckland flights to Houston, Argentina and Dubai would now attract further growth in visitors from the United States, South America and United Arab Emirates.

Additional flights available to Auckland from Malaysia and China by AirAsia X, Air China and China Eastern Airlines would also make a difference, he said.

The chairman of the Auckland hotels section of the Tourism Industry Association, Paul Columbus, said the figures were not surprising given that hotels in Auckland had had more than 90 per cent occupancy rates in the peak season.

He said there was demand for more accommodation in the city and new hotel developments planned for the next three to five years would help with that.

These include the Sofitel So, Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt and SkyCity.

Ateed said these hotel developments would add up to 2000 rooms to the downtown accommodation scene.

Meanwhile, tourism operators are also thriving. Auckland Seaplanes chief executive, Chris Sattler, had his busiest December and January since starting two and a half years ago.

"The whole of the waterfront feels a lot busier. It's a nice place to be, with good food and entertainment. The events are attracting more people to the area and the continued developments will turn the waterfront into a hub, away from Queen St and other locations."

Mr Sattler's business runs scenic and charter flights, and he has noticed an increase in the number of Chinese independent travellers.

"They are looking for a unique, premium experience. Many of them are seeing a seaplane for the first time."

Mr Sattler has invested in new facilities and a second seaplane as a result of the growth, and has featured recently on French and German television.

The Statistics New Zealand figures for the number of holidaymakers are based on visitors who say the reason for their trip is a holiday.