RESEARCH released by Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand In Depth, the UK’s leading New Zealand tailored travel expert, has highlighted Devon as one of the hotbeds of travel to New Zealand predicted to contribute 3% of the 196,000 estimated to travel from Britain in 2014.

This upsurge of visitors, which bucks a downward trend since the boom of the Lord of the Rings films, is estimated to increase local visitor numbers from 5550 last year to 5850 in 2014, an increase of 5%. This rise has been attributed to a focus on the country during the Royal visit in 2013, the release of ‘The Hobbit’ films and major events such as the Cricket World Cup scheduled for later this year.

Figures showed that 92% of those journeying south from Devon are holidaymakers with an additional 2% visiting on a working holiday. Over half of all of those who visit the country will include a stay with friends or family who live New Zealand.

Results also indicated that holidaymakers to the country in 2013 had an average stay of 28 days per visit, with business visitors staying a little longer. The UK is therefore projected to create over 2.2 million holiday stay days and input £342 million into the UK to New Zealand travel sector over the next 12 months.

Paul Carberry, founder of New Zealand travel specialist New Zealand In Depth, said: “New Zealand has had a great year on the international stage with the high profile visit from William, Kate and baby prince George really putting the country, and many of its wonderful opportunities for visitors, on the map.

“There has always been an appetite for people from Devon travelling to New Zealand with its natural wonders for outdoor lovers, luxury lodges for the discerning guest and a warm, friendly and diverse culture that welcomes you with open arms.”

With 20% of Devon’s travellers visiting New Zealand in the high season of February, it is likely that around 1180 visitors will be making the journey around the world from Devon in that month alone. The top activities for visitors questioned by Tourism New Zealand included hiking and outdoor activities as well as New Zealand’s geothermal, boating and cultural attractions.

“The research not only shows that Devon is one of the most popular regions in for New Zealand holidaymakers from the UK, but everything indicates that this is also set to rise,” adds Carberry.