With more tourists visiting Wellington to eat, drink, do business and be entertained, the capital welcomed an 8 per cent rise in tourist spending last year.
New figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment showed $1.4b was spent by visitors in Wellington during 2011.
Pop-up restaurants and retailers, a rise in visitors from across the Tasman and more cruise ship travellers all helped add a fresh spark to the Wellington tourism sector.
The Rugby World Cup also drew visitors between early September and early October, with eight games played in the city.
The total number of tourists visiting Wellington in 2011 was up 7 per cent from the previous year to 4.56 million.
Last year was Wellington's busiest winter ever with events such as city-wide foodie festival Wellington On A Plate helping to have hotels booked out for 21 per cent more nights in the June-August quarter.
"The capital has really soldiered on and worked hard and worked tactically to keep driving growth through what continue to be tough times for our industry," Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said.
There were 42 per cent more people visiting from Australia last year than the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2007.
In 2011 alone, the number of Australians coming to the capital rose 16 per cent.
Innovative events such as the second WLG pop up restaurant event in Australia last year helped raise the capital's profile in Melbourne. Flights running directly between the two cities increased and as part of a giveaway with national carrier Air New Zealand, 60 diners were given return flights to Wellington.
Global media coverage of the filming of The Hobbit drew attention to Wellington and the 3 Nights for Two marketing campaign injected extra custom into the hotel industry. Commercial guest nights were up 13 per cent from 2007 to more than 2.1 million in 2011.
Wellington City Council economic portfolio leader Jo Coughlan said tourism sheltered the local economy somewhat during challenging times.
"We have been very successful at maintaining visitor numbers in a very tough time, now need to build on this success through marketing Wellington as a business destination as well as a tourism destination, attracting more permanent talent and businesses to Wellington."
CHRISTCHURCH SPENDING DOWN
In contrast, regional tourism spending in Canterbury fell 10 per cent to to $1.8 billion in 2011 as the earthquakes cut into visitor numbers.
The estimates show total international and domestic travellers spent $15.1b in 2011, up 5 per cent from 2010.
The regions with the highest increase in tourism expenditure were Dunedin and Timaru, up 11 per cent, Auckland and Waitaki, up 10 per cent, and Waikato, up 9 per cent.
Tourism Research and Evaluation manager Peter Ellis said the Christchurch earthquake had a big impact on regional differences within tourism during 2011.
Tourism spending in Christchurch and Canterbury was hit by a 22 per cent fall in international visitor nights.
However, nearby regions like Timaru, Dunedin and Waitaki saw increases in tourism spending, a likely result of more domestic flows from Christchurch following the February earthquake.
Auckland's good year for tourism was largely a result of the Rugby World Cup, Ellis said.
The regional tourism estimates show there were a 105.1 million international and domestic visitor nights in 2011, up 3 per cent from 2010.
Auckland had 24.9 million visitor nights, up 6 per cent; Christchurch 12.1 million visitor nights, down 7 per cent; and Wellington had 7.3 million visitor nights, up 7 per cent.
The estimates are a yearly analysis of the Ministry's domestic and international tourism research and are the best available estimate of regional differences in tourism trends.
They do not capture all tourism expenditure, as they exclude international airfares, outbound travel purchases from New Zealand firms, some purchases of tourism-specific goods, and imputed rental on holiday homes.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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