Aussies flock to New Zealand amid global tourism downturn

The number of Brits and Americans holidaying in New Zealand has slipped but Australians are visiting their antipodean neighbour in greater numbers than ever.

New statistics show tourist numbers were down 10,000 this January as potential long-haul visitors decided to go elsewhere or stay at home in tough financial times.

Bookings from the US were down 19.5 per cent on the previous January while the UK was down 10.4 per cent.

But Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said an increase in Australian tourists, probably due to a targeted advertising drive, had helped bolster the drop.

"I am delighted to see that our summer campaign in Australia has helped fill the country during the industry's peak season, with almost 2,000 extra Australians this January and a 4.5 per cent increase in holiday arrivals," Hickton said in a statement.

He said the small rise in Australian numbers could limit the overall visitor decline to between five to 10 per cent between January and March, even though the long-haul markets are likely to drop by 15 per cent in that period.

The industry said it was expecting a slow winter and was now focusing on how to drive numbers for next peak season.