Otago hotels and motels enjoyed a bumper December, helping to boost South Island guest nights by a hefty 7.2 per cent in the month.
South Island guest nights rebounded sharply after falling 7 per cent in November, and led to an overall increase in national guest nights.
New Zealand guest nights were up 3.1 per cent in December, recovering from a 2.7 per cent fall in November, Statistics NZ said.
North Island guest nights rose 0.5 per cent in December.
International guest nights rose 6 per cent, while domestic guest nights were almost steady, up 0.6 per cent.
Seasonally adjusted, foreign visitors accounted for just more than 1 million guest nights in December, compared with 1.6 million domestic guest nights.
Statistics NZ said Otago was the "main contributor" to the strong result in the South Island in December.
The Otago region, which includes the Queenstown Lakes, recorded 492,000 guest nights, up almost 5 per cent on the same month last year. The guest nights for the region were up from just 330,000 in November.
The Accommodation Survey records guests staying in hotels, motels, backpacker accommodation, and holiday parks in New Zealand each month.
Guest nights rose for all types of accommodation, except for backpackers.