Bitter-sweet is how Steve Armitage describes the past year-and-a-half as he contemplates moving on from Auckland Unlimited, the city's tourism arm where he has been general manager since 2013.
Having been responsible for tourism marketing, major events, international education and destination management, Armitage has been in the thick of the disruption caused by Covid and travel restrictions.
That's why he has no hesitation in describing the hosting of the recent America's Cup as one of his proudest achievements – despite the obvious disappointment the lack of overseas visitors had on the financial outcome.
"We all had huge ambitions for what that event would bring to Auckland and New Zealand. But the way that we were able to band together and still deliver such a high calibre international event that caught the world's attention was something we should all be very proud of."
The effects of Covid alert level changes and border closures were laid bare in a recent Government and Council report that showed the country made a loss of $156 million from hosting the America's Cup event in March.
The loss was put down to higher than projected public investment, few international visitors and only three of the potential 10 challengers racing.
But for Armitage, hosting the cup was still a success given the cards those involved had to deal with.
"Auckland is much more recognised now as a global destination than it was 10 years ago and to deliver an event like that under the circumstances was pretty awesome."
Armitage was instrumental in creating a 2025 strategy document that set a new direction for the development of the city as a global destination for domestic and international travellers. That strategy was crucial in terms of landing significant global events such as the Fifa Women's World Cup football competition, ICC Women's cricket World Cup, Women's Rugby World Cup and APEC.
Due to Covid those events have either been postponed or, in APEC's case, reformatted as a virtual event online but they are proof of Auckland's pulling power, Armitage says.
"It's pretty bitter-sweet," Armitage says. "The pleasing thing is we still have those two rugby and cricket world cups to look forward to and of course the Fifa Women's World Cup, which we played a significant role supporting central government to land as co-host with Australia.
"So there's still a lot of optimism there about how events can help in Auckland's recovery. Of course, the year as it was planned has not panned out how we would have liked but we are still very fortunate to have been able to host the America's Cup and to have those other events up our sleeves for next year and 2023.
"We've always tried to take a long term view as to what type of event activity we should be looking to bring into the city these last couple of years and looking forward to 2023 we are starting to see the payoff from that work. The challenge will be keeping that momentum up in such a complex environment."
If Covid wasn't bad enough, Auckland's event calendar has had to deal with the delay to the International Convention Centre due to fire and uncertainty over the future of the ASB Showgrounds venue which is in receivership.
Armitage said he had sympathy for SkyCity and Fletcher Building for the convention centre's woes but ironically that asset would have sat idle for a significant period of time anyway due to the pandemic.
"It remains a critical asset for the city and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the international events that we've secured in the longer term being hosted here. That will be huge benefit for the city."
And as far as ASB Showgrounds goes he believes it has a future.
"It's played a pivotal role and sometimes these things need to actually happen for you to properly acknowledge and respect the role that some of these venues play in what the city is delivering day in day out."
Armitage is due to leave Auckland Unlimited in September and is planning on taking a break before taking on a new challenge.
"The local government environment is a pretty unforgiving one. You work extremely long hours and I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all but it does take a toll on family life. So I'm looking forward to spending a bit of quality time with my daughter.
"I'll still remain in and around the tourism sector for a period of time and I'm looking ahead to next year to coming back with something more permanent and look forward to sharing that news in due course."