Record tourism has driven New Zealand hotel and motel occupancy rates to their highest ever levels and prompted the industry to start making plans to cope with ever-increasing demand.

The hotel occupancy rate increased 2.4 percentage points to a record high 80.3 per cent in February while the motel rate advanced 2.2 percentage points to a record 75.3 per cent, Statistics New Zealand said.

Demand for short-term accommodation in New Zealand is building as tourism continues to grow. February visitor arrivals increased 9 per cent to a new record high for the month, setting a fresh annual record of 3.2 million visitors.

Guest nights rose in February for the 23rd month in a row, reflecting broad-based gains across both islands.


National guest nights advanced 7 per cent to 3.966 million in February from a year earlier, although slipping from the record 4.844 million in January, Statistics New Zealand said. February figures were bolstered by an extra day for leap year and warm weather, it said.

Guest nights have been rising for about the past two years, with the latest figures showing gains across all regions, all accommodation types, and driven by both domestic and international guests.

"New Zealand is just a hot destination right now. We had a record summer and so tourism continues to grow very strongly," said Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts.

Over the next few months, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is building a forecasting model to assess current growth and forecast needs, which can be used to promote investment, Roberts said.

"Market forces will mostly provide what we need, but the strength of the growth we are seeing may have caught the market out," he said.

"In the last two years we have probably seen about five years of growth.

"There might be a lag because of how rapid the growth currently is."

He said there was a role for central and local government to see what they can do to speed up processes to remove any red tape and put opportunities in front of investors.


New Zealand has benefited from a higher profile following the Hobbit movies, and is seeing a "very strong rebound" in tourism following a quiet four to five years after the global financial crisis in 2008, Roberts said.

"We are seeing every one of our major markets growing," he said.

That strong growth is likely to continue for at least the next couple of years after a significant increase in airline capacity, as well as increased demand for one-time events such as the Lions Rugby Tour and the World Masters games next year, he said.