Wairarapa's international tourist figures in February almost doubled on the same period last year and an industry leader says the district's tourism is riding "a nice wave".

Statistics New Zealand figures show nights stayed by international guests rose 87.7per cent in February 2016 compared to February last year.

Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said it's a high time for tourism, and Wairarapa was certainly benefiting.

"We're hitting a nice wave at the moment, and we'll ride it," Mr Hancock said.


More than 27,000 total guest nights were recorded in February in Wairarapa, an increase of 27 per cent on the year before for both domestic and international visitors. More than 115,000 tourists arrived in the year to February, an 5.8 per cent year-on-year increase.

Mr Hancock said strong relationships with travel and tourism agents was a key to bringing more international guests to the region.

He said he met with 82 agents on a recent trip to Auckland to promote Wairarapa and capitalise on the national tourism boom.

Nationwide, 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 five 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 although international tourism was experiencing massive success at the moment, 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" for the tourism industry.

"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 only prepared to travel 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 had also been "excellent".