More international travellers are visiting Whanganui as the region capitalises on a tourism gold rush.

Statistics New Zealand figures show international visitor nights in Whanganui increased 12 per cent in February compared with February last year. And visitor numbers for the district have increased for 23 straight months.

Whanganui District Council promotion and marketing manager Lyn Cheyne said growth in international tourism - which accounts for about 20 per cent of visitors - was particularly pleasing.

Australia, Germany, France and Britain were the main international markets but the number of Asian visitors was growing rapidly.


"Tourism growth from Asia is compelling and we are taking steps to welcome this market," Ms Cheyne said.

Due to the typically tight schedules of many Chinese tourists - New Zealand's second largest market - Ms Cheyne said the focus was on attracting second-time visitors looking to explore more of regional New Zealand.

She said two marketing staff spent three days in Auckland last week at an event for inbound tourism agents and operators - important pieces in the tourism puzzle.

More than 105,000 tourists - domestic and international - visited Whanganui in the year to February 2016.

Ms Cheyne said the number of tourists was likely to be higher than this, as visitors also stayed in non-commercial accommodation - such as with family or friends, or a private bed and breakfast - and were unable to be counted.

Nationwide, commercial 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 5 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 international tourism was experiencing massive success but 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".

"There's no silver bullet for encouraging domestic tourism."

The challenge, Mr Roberts said, was competing for the discretionary dollar: a weekend away as opposed to maybe buying a TV for the bedroom.

He said most people were prepared to travel only three hours by car, so encouraging air travel was crucial.

He said recent competition between airlines has also been "excellent".