Travellers heading to New Zealand have helped the tourism industry get back on top as the country’s number one export earner – beating out the country’s other well-known export, dairy.

Tourism in New Zealand is again the country's top export earner.

Tourism in New Zealand is again the country’s top export earner. Image by Tom Hall / CC BY 2.0

New Zealand has had a record-breaking summer season for tourism and using Statistics New Zealand data, the Tourism Industry Association (TIA) has estimated its value at $13.5 billion. That number is an estimate of the money spent by all international visitors while in the country and airfare. That value just surpasses dairy exports – which include milk powder, butter, cheese, casein and caseinates – which totalled $13 billion in the same period.

Tourism was on top from the late nineties until 2010, according to the TIA, when dairy products saw a boom.

Cows in New Zealand.

Cows in New Zealand. Image by Dave Young / CC BY 2.0

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said he expects the trend to continue next year, “particularly given the multitude of new air services being introduced, the lower New Zealand dollar, relatively cheap fuel prices and strong marketing campaigns”.

New Zealand has seen a number of new flight routes this year, including connections between US and New Zealand by Qantas and American Airlines, and a non-stop service to Vietnam by national carrier Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand was also named the world’s top airline in the Airline Excellence Awards, presented by

It has also seen a bump in tourism in recent years due to high-profile movies filmed in the country, such as the Lord of the Rings series.

The tourism industry in New Zealand has set a goal of being worth $41 billion by 2025.

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