They may not be big numbers when lined up against New Zealand tourism hot spots, but tourist spending Whanganui in the year ended July this year totalled about $115 million.

The data has been put together by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and shows Whanganui sitting at the top of the tree in terms of regional tourism expenditure.

Month-on-month growth for the year ended July 2016 in Whanganui showed a 31.6 per cent increase for regional spend on tourism putting Whanganui firmly at the top of the list.

In July alone visitor spend reached $10 million.


Lyn Cheyne, promotions and marketing manager for Whanganui and Partners, said this figure included national and international visitors, with 84 per cent of them Kiwis visiting the district. The national rate for the same period was 4.1 per cent.

In terms of annual growth figures for regional tourism expenditure, Whanganui still features at the top, ranking third with year-on-year growth of 10.3 per cent. Lake Wanaka and Queenstown take the first two places with growth of 18.8 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively.

Ms Cheyne said in terms of total dollars, Whanganui was only a small portion of national tourism expenditure (0.4 per cent) but the figures showed a significant shift with people spending more during their stay and staying longer.

"I'm delighted with the results," she said.

"Our visitor numbers staying in commercial accommodation in the last year have remained reasonably steady following a good increase the previous year. What this shows is that we are attracting a higher value visitor resulting in growth for tourism spend."

She said the improving visitor numbers were being driven by a number of things.

"We've been getting a lot of positive Whanganui stories out there and we've had more media people visit and write articles about the place. Regular advertising has been used as well," she said.

"What we're finding is people are having another look at Whanganui."

Ms Cheyne said the latest figures confirmed the district was getting a good share of motorhome travellers, visitors arranging travel through the Airbnb website and people visiting friends and family.

The regional tourism estimates are released monthly and include spend on accommodation, culture and recreation, food and beverage services as well as retail food and beverage purchases, fuel and automotive spend and other tourism products.