Northland is riding a wave of visitors from across the world, with spending by international tourists at a six-year high in December.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment regional tourism indicators showed the international tourism spend in Northland in December 2014 was 24 per cent higher than December 2013, though domestic spending fell by 4 per cent from December 2013, despite low petrol prices making it cheaper for Kiwis to get around.
Northland Inc general manager of regional promotions and tourism, Paul Davis, said there had been a notable increase in visitors to the region, particularly from Western countries.
The retail sector has also been enjoying the boom, with the latest Paymark statistics showing $2.12 billion was spent in Auckland and Northland in December 2014 - a 5.9 per cent increase on 2013.
"The Australian, United Kingdom, Europe and United States markets have been performing really well," Mr Davis said.
"They're the groups that typically stay longer and spend more."
Greater prominence for New Zealand thanks to targeted promotion by Tourism New Zealand and economic recovery from the global financial crisis had probably driven the visitor numbers up, he said. "Commercial accommodation has had an 8 per cent growth in region. That's pretty significant for Northland."
A drop in fuel prices had also made it easier for people to get to the region, he said. Mr Davis believed there was potential for the region's eco-tourism to grow.
"It's just a matter of focusing on what can be done," he said.
The Northland Regional Growth Study, released last week, says despite the region's unique attractions and amenities, Northland's visitor economy has not performed well over several years, with declining guest nights and limited growth in visitor expenditure. However, the study says, tourism is a key area for driving growth in Northland.
Countrywide, international tourism spending was up by 21 per cent year-on-year while domestic spending was up by 4 per cent.
Labour's tourism spokesman, Peeni Henare, said tourism seemed to be tracking well - but there was room for improvement. "I think there's scope for more to be done around eco-tourism. There are operators out there who feel they're being ignored at the moment. Adventure tourism also needs tightening up. The Government put in a whole lot of regulations for compliance which have caused a lot of operators to go under because they cost too much."
More could be done in the regions, he said: "A whole heap of regional operators are looking for a slice of the action ... they're not feeling benefits of booming tourism market at the moment. NZME.