New Zealanders are the No 1 source of tourists for Australia and it is important they are not taken for granted, says the Australian Tourist Commission's deputy managing director, Bill Calderwood.

The commission chief told the Australian Tourism Exchange trade show in Sydney that almost 730,000 New Zealanders crossed the Tasman for a visit last year, a figure that was up 3 per cent on the previous year and represented 17 per cent of all international visitors to Australia.

Average spending was $A1170 ($1476), totalling $A773 million, the fourth highest of all nations.

During the year, New Zealand overtook Japan in providing the most tourists to Australia.

Calderwood said sporting events, such as the Bledisloe Cup rugby tests, remained a drawcard and represented important business.