New tourism industry head Martin Snedden says New Zealand should stick to promoting a clean, green image, despite controversy over the claims.
The former Rugby World Cup boss said the green image still remains an important point of difference for the $23 billion tourism industry.
Snedden took up the chief executive role at the Tourism Industry Association two weeks ago.
The association represents about 1700 operators ranging from airlines, hotel chains to one-person tourism operators.
Snedden said negative publicity overseas about New Zealand's environmental record had dented faith in the 100 per cent Pure strategy but he sensed that confidence was returning.
"I think it's been through a cycle," Snedden said.
"It was an incredibly successful campaign for a long time but the confidence in New Zealand started to erode when we questioned whether we are telling the truth," he said.
"Over the last year it's swung back to thinking, 'Yes, that is right'.
"The campaign itself is right but what we have to do is to live up to that campaign."
Since taking up the job he had noted a surprising amount of gloom in the industry, which he said was in good shape.
Total visitor numbers were growing, visitor night stays were steady and total spending on tourism is holding at about $23 billion a year. About 40 per cent of that comes from foreign visitors.
"In a global sense there must be something good happening," Snedden said. "There's no doubt that some areas are struggling.
"People have to adapt to change. There is no such thing as the good old days."
Growth in the number of tourists from the traditional markets of Britain and the United States had declined while new markets such as mainland China had boomed in the past few years.
Snedden said Indonesia was also a potentially lucrative market.
The association, in a submission on air transport policy, has called on the government to concentrate on Pacific Rim markets when negotiating air service agreements.
"We don't see any benefit in the Government negotiating new air service agreements with countries such as Poland and Israel when actual and forecast visitor arrivals from these countries are negligible and are not earmarked as future growth markets," Snedden said.
Association forecasts last year showed the Chinese market share would grow from 6 per cent last year to 10 per cent in 2016 while the British market share was predicted to fall from 9 per cent to 7 per cent in the same period.
Auckland Airport figures last week showed Chinese visitor numbers jumped 44 per cent in May to 12,443 compared to the same month last year.
Operators targeting the Chinese market needed to work on long-term plans.
"Obviously there's been some foundation work done and the figures are starting to show some growth," he said.
"The process is going to take between 10 and 20 years rather than two and five."
Snedden said it was too early for figures on follow-up visits from some of the 133,000 Rugby World Cup tourists but there were early signs some French visitors had returned.
The glow from the cup was fading and operators needed to act relatively quickly to take advantage of it. This meant tightly targeting potential markets.
"The challenge is now, having opened the door, to keep that going."By Grant Bradley Email Grant