Zorb operator Outdoor Gravity saw 70 per cent of its customers disappear when borders were closed in March.
Like many other tourism businesses, the Rotorua company was highly dependent on overseas visitors.
''Domestic has come back strongly but there is no way it is covering for the international,'' said director David Akers.
And so far the domestic market had been lumpy.
''You get a great school holidays, Auckland goes back into lockdown, you get a great weekend and think it's not too bad and then in midweek it plummets.''
The prospect of overseas visitors not returning for a year or more has meant Outdoor Gravity has had to change course.
The company has always had an Zorb ball export business but now it is doubling its efforts in that side of the operation.
''We've got three of our frontline staff from the tourism side making Zorb balls and at the same time we've been able to branch out and try and extend international consultancy on new Zorb sites overseas.''
Crucial for the export push was emphasising the company's New Zealand origins and base.
It is one of a growing number of tourism operators and services tapping into a country of origin programme to reap the benefits of NZ Story, the government agency that manages the FernMark licence programme.
Akers says it is critical that Zorb is able to stamp its Kiwi links using the FernMark programme, to distinguish itself from overseas imitators using inferior and in some cases dangerous copy products.
Some even called themselves Zorb operators.
"Unless you want to spend a lot on lawyers, it's pretty difficult to stop people using your name. That's why we're keen on the New Zealand link - imitators can't claim they're part of that."
A genuine Zorb ball is made from high quality imported plastics, takes a week to make and costs around $13,000 to the licensed operators the company works with. It doesn't sell the balls privately.
Copy balls sell for about $500 and have been linked to accidents overseas.
Helping its survival, the Zorb business has had close to $200,000 in wage subsidy money and $300,000 from the Strategic Tourism Assets fund over two years.
The company has a partnership with a Japanese operation and is looking for more partners overseas to sell Zorb balls to and provide consultancy services.
Akers says despite Covid, the company used Zoom video conferences and can still consult offshore customers to construct safe ball rolling sites and give safety procedure training.
The increased focused on exports means Akers has not only been able to re-train staff to manufacture balls but also invest $70,000 in research and development for a new product — a downsized, introductory Zorb site for potential operators who lack time or facilities for a full-scale site.
Ski-fields could be ideal for Zorbing during summer and overseas many were close to big cities. Other countries had big domestic tourist markets with people looking for new things to do.
Akers said his company was staying active on social media to keep potential visitors from overseas interested in the attraction they may visit when they can again.
While the FernMark country of origin trademark or symbol is typically used by exporters in sectors such as food, beverage and health products, a growing number of Kiwi tech companies, tourism operators and service providers are recalibrating their offerings to reinforce their New Zealand connection to customers.
Other New Zealand tourism businesses in the programme include Skyline Luge, which has expanded into South Korea, and the new Book Me Bob, which is taking its AI chatbot to service not just resorts and hotels, but expanding into markets like holiday homes (Air BnB style) beauty salons, rest homes and international convention centre bookings.
Advice from Zorb boss David Akers
• Diversify - Zorb has looked at goat cheese dairy, a plant nursery and lawn mowing.
• If customers can't come to you, go to them by maintaining a social media presence overseas.
• Take some comfort from many businesses being in the same boat - everybody has been hit by Covid-19. ''If it was just your company you'd be in the doldrums.''
• Work collaboratively with other businesses in your sector