A continuing surge in Chinese visitor numbers buoyed New Zealand's tourism industry last year, the New Zealand government statistics agency announced Friday.
Last year, more than 2.56 million visitors arrived in New Zealand, down 1 percent from 2011, when the Rugby World Cup was held, but was up 2 percent from 2010, according to a Statistics New Zealand report.
Annual visitor arrivals from China were up by 35 percent, or 51, 500, from 2011, but this was countered by decreases from the United Kingdom, France, and South Africa.
Tourism New Zealand, the government tourism agency, said the figures reaffirmed the underlying growth in visitors.
Chief executive Kevin Bowler said last year saw a significant change in the market mix with arrivals from Asia, in particular China, continuing to increase, while long-haul markets have remained challenging.
"Undoubtedly the biggest story of the year was the dramatic growth from China, which moved passed the United States and UK to become our second largest source of visitors," Bowler said in a statement.
"The current economic situation in Europe, and New Zealand's high exchange rate, has understandably impacted on the number of long-haul arrivals."
Chinese visitor numbers would continue to grow, but the agency was also hoping to draw them to the country for longer stay periods when they would spend more.