Sly marketing, a successful fantasy film and sheer remoteness have consipired to help New Zealand trump Australia in attracting international tourists. New Zealand defied worldwide trends and boasted a 3.8% increase in arrivals in the 12 months to June. About two million international visitors are expected here next year – half the country’s population. While New Zealand seems immune to the fallout from the war on terror and the gobal economic slowdown, arrivals to Australia over the same period have dropped 6% compared with the strong 2000-01 Olympic year.

In the 12 months to September, international viistor numbers to Austalia are expected to have declined by 8%.

Australia’s Tourism Task Force chief executive Christopher Brown said Australia had much to learn from New Zealand. He said New Zealand made a huge investment in pushing its successful 100% Pure brand.

“I think when the world is looking for something clean and fresh they have done very well out of that,” he said.

“They have also been buoyed by the Lord of the Rings phenomena (sic) and were selling New Zealand as Middle Earth (sic).”

Mr Brown said the absolute remoteness of New Zealand had worked to its advantage over the past 12 months.

“Their timing was beautiful because you can get to New Zealand and get away from the worries of the world.

“There has to be some consolation on being the most remote place of Earth,” he said.

The Lord of the Rings is believed to be one reason for a 21% jump in British arrivals here.