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Tourism in the Waikato region

Waitomo Caves

New Zealanders and overseas visitors value the Waikato region’s many scenic natural attractions. Tourism is a key industry for New Zealand. We need to manage the demands that increasing numbers of tourists and holidaymakers put on our environment.

The tourism industry markets New Zealand’s scenic beauty internationally. Many New Zealanders have a strong relationship with the outdoors and over half of adult New Zealanders use beaches, rivers and lakes for leisure.

High profile tourist and recreation attractions are based around the natural resources of:

  • Waitomo Caves
  • Geothermal activity around Rotorua
  • Coromandel Peninsula
  • Lake Taupo
  • Tongariro National Park.

Tour operators, holidaymakers and day–trippers use the Waikato’s nationally recognised tourist routes (State Highway 1, State Highway 3 and the Pacific Coast Highway).

Tourism demands

High tourist numbers may affect the Waikato region’s environment. Increasing numbers may result in:

  • damage to fragile natural environments
  • development that may affect our environment
  • strain on infrastructure, such as waste treatment services and roads.

Most of the 3 million visits in 2009 to the Coromandel Peninsula were by New Zealanders (88 per cent). Total visitor numbers are forecast to increase by 2.9 per cent to 2016, with a growing proportion of international visitors (increasing by 14.2 per cent over the period)1.

The Thames-Coromandel district's usual population of 27,1002 grows by six times as much over the Christmas Day to New Year’s Day period, when holiday property owners, their friends and families, campers and holiday makers arrive3. This large population increase put strain on roads and waste services. Find out more about the pressures on our coasts from visitors and development.

Taupo also has seasonal increases in visitors. Around 3.3 million visitor nights were had in  Taupo in 2009. Most of these are New Zealanders (75 per cent). These numbers are expected to grow to 3.4 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 3.6 per cent on current levels4.

Key facts:

  • For the year to March 2010, international tourism contributed $9.54 billion (or 18.2 per cent) to total New Zealand exports.  This made it New Zealand's largest export earner, followed by dairy products5.
  • International travel trends show a growing interest in the quality of the environment and a growing demand for different cultural experiences.
  • Of the 13.4 million international visitor nights to New Zealand in 2010, 5.8 per cent of those nights were spent in the Waikato region.6
  • The Waikato region is New Zealand's fourth largest destination for domestic travel, especially for holiday makers.6
  • Domestic and international visitors spent a total of 2.7 million guest nights in commercial establishments in the Waikato region during the year to December 2010.6


  1. Tourism Research Council New Zealand. 2010: New Zealand Regional Tourism Forecasts, 2010-2016 Coromandel Region. Wellington.
  2. Statistics New Zealand. 2006: 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings. Wellington.
  3. Thames Coromandel District Council. 1994: Mercury Bay Strategic Planning Retreat and Council Tour 5-6 May 2004. Thames Coromandel District Council, Thames.
  4. Tourism Research Council New Zealand. 2010: New Zealand Regional Tourism Forecasts, 2010-2016 Taupo Region. Wellington.
  5. Ministry of Economic Development. 2010: Tourism Satellite account 2010.   
  6. Ministry of Economic Development. 2010. Regional Data - Waikato Region.