New Zealand is perceived to have "fallen off the global radar" as a desirable destination, according to a report on the state of the tourism industry.
The State of the Tourism Sector 2012 report by the Tourism Industry Association and Lincoln University paints a mixed picture of the multibillion-dollar industry that New Zealand relies so heavily upon.
The report, released yesterday, drew on industry data and the views of association members and others involved with tourism.
"New Zealand is perceived to have fallen off the global radar as a desirable destination to some extent - in part as a result of increasing competition from other destinations, and in part because of economic conditions in generating countries," the report says.
One interviewee said: "I don't think we are perceived as a 'must-see' destination like we were back in the mid-2000s - we have certainly lost our edge."
New Zealand was seen as an expensive destination and to some "still an elite proposition".
One interviewee said it was "fair to say the industry is economically flat - some pockets of optimism and some pockets of potential or actual investment, but generally it is in 'holding on mode', with no significant growth and some experiencing a downturn".
In the 12 months between State of the Tourism Sector reports, tourism was affected by the Christchurch earthquakes, floods and the grounding of the container ship Rena.
"On the positive side, the Rugby World Cup brought 133,200 visitors. It is likely without this major event that overall visitor growth would have been considerably lower," the report says.
There was 4.4 per cent growth in total visitor arrivals for the year ending March 2012, compared with the previous year.
Association chief executive Martin Snedden said interviewees had identified a range of opportunities the industry could pursue, including cruise tourism, conference and incentive markets, and the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
"There is also an acceptance that visitor markets are changing quickly, with the greatest growth coming from new markets like China, and operators need to adapt their products and marketing to meet the demands of new and niche markets."
* Tourism directly and indirectly employs nearly one in 10 New Zealanders (179,800 total full-time-equivalent jobs).
* Tourism in New Zealand is a $63 million-a-day industry. Tourism delivers $27 million in foreign exchange to the New Zealand economy each day of the year. Domestic tourism contributes a further $36 million in economic activity every day.
* Total tourism expenditure reached $23 billion for the year ended March 2011.