Key Points:

New Zealand has won a global award for responsible tourism, as well as an award for "best destination".

Judges in the contest, sponsored by Virgin Holidays, lauded the country for developing a tourism strategy which helped to make destinations better places to live and visit.

Launched in 2004, the awards are run in association World Travel Market, The Daily Telegraph, Geographical Magazine and BBC World News.

At a ceremony in London, New Zealand also took the best destination award for its national, strategic approach to responsible tourism, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

The judges said New Zealand had set an example.

"If more national governments followed their example, tourism would make a much more positive contribution around the world."

New Zealand proved it was possible to develop a national strategy which used tourism to help make better places to live and to visit.

NZ was given the "best destination" award for developing an integrated approach to tourism development at the national level and managing it: identifying and then attracting those tourists who contributed most to the economy.

The industry formerly set numerical targets such as aiming for three million visitors a year but now focussed on yield, spreading the benefits of tourism and fully integrating environmental issues into its quality standard.