New Zealand's tourism sector is on track to overtake dairy as New Zealand's biggest export earner and the country will soon crack three million visitors a year.

Tourism has recovered from the hit dealt by the global economic crisis and for the past three years has enjoyed strong growth.

Prime Minister John Key, who is also Tourism Minister, expects this summer to be the country's biggest for the visitor industry.

"It's a growth sector and there's a lot more left in the tank," Key said.

"Within the next month or two we'll welcome our three millionth tourist to New Zealand. Not only are more tourists coming to New Zealand they are staying longer and spending more."

The number of visitors in the 12 months to June was just short of three million, up 7.4 per cent on the corresponding year.

The latest full year figures showed international tourism expenditure contributed $10.3 billion (15.3 per cent) to New Zealand's total exports.

Key said recent strong growth had come in spite of a strong Kiwi dollar against main source markets and the more favourable exchange rate for visitors would make this country even more attractive.

The benefits of tourism were widely spread with most spending outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Statistics New Zealand figures show the tourism industry directly employed 94,100 fulltime equivalents, or 4.7 per cent of total employment.

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