Despite the brief boost from the Rugby World Cup last year, total tourism spending rose just 2.4 per cent to $23.4 billion in the year to March 31, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.
The Tourism Satellite Account shows international tourism spending rose only 1.6 per cent, or by $149 million in the March year. That was slightly down on the growth of 1.8 per cent in the year to March 31, 2011, before the Rugby World Cup.
The tournament took place in September and October last year, with about 133,000 visitors coming to New Zealand specifically to watch the rugby. A month before the tournament, organisers had expected 95,000 visitors, so it exceeded expectations.
"Growth in overseas visitor arrivals of 4.4 per cent, largely driven by the 2011 Rugby World Cup, contributed to this small increase in international expenditure," satellites account manager Peter Gardiner said.
But the boost from the rugby was offset by the impact of the Christchurch earthquake early last year, which put off many foreign visitors to the South Island.
International tourism was also hampered by the lingering impact of the global financial crisis. Spending by domestic tourists in the year to March 2012 grew at a faster pace, up 3 per cent, or almost $400m to $13.8 billion.
The report also shows international tourism expenditure contributed $9.6 billion (15.4 per cent) to New Zealand's total exports of goods and services. The tourism industry directly employed 119,800 full-time equivalents (FTEs), or 6.2 per cent of total employment in New Zealand.