Tourism operators say the global credit crunch and the high dollar are partly to blame for a drop in the number of visitors in the past year, especially from the northern hemisphere.
Ministry of Tourism figures show visitor arrivals in June were 2% lower than the same month last year.
The ministry's report, 'Tourism Leading Indicators Monitor', predicts that by 2011 the Rugby World Cup is expected to boost tourist numbers by 5.5%, but before then visitor numbers are predicted to plateau with an increase of just over 1% this year.
Travel company Pan Pacific Travel says the cost in US dollars to visit New Zealand has gone up by between 20% and 30% in the past year.
Managing director Matt Brady says New Zealand is not alone, and tourist operators in Hawaii are close to declaring their industry in a state of crisis due to lower visitor numbers.