There are signs Rotorua's CBD is rallying for summer.
Moteliers are optimistic about attracting summer visitors, new restaurants have opened, revitalisation plans are gathering momentum, and the council says the CBD is safer than last year.
Other business owners, however, say problems persist in the CBD, with one saying the city's reputation is "ruined" and any turnaround will take years.
Hospitality NZ accommodation sector Rotorua vice-chairman and Aura Accommodation owner Nick Fitzgerald said everyone was feeling optimistic about the holidays but he acknowledged there was some uncertainty.
"The uptake in bookings and people travelling to Rotorua has been a little bit slower and lighter than we would have anticipated at this time of the year.
"But we are reasonably optimistic that it will be a reasonable and profitable period for us."
Restaurant owner and Restaurant Association member Tim Smith said he was really excited about summer, as were other restaurateurs.
He was not aware of any safety or behavioural issues in the CBD and was an advocate for its revitalisation.
"Everybody talks about how bad the CBD is, which I don't necessarily agree with, I know there are lots of empty shops but that is a trend happening around the world."
Smith said he was also aware the Pullman Hotel was nearly booked out for January and this year six new restaurants opened in Rotorua.
He wanted to credit locals for their support as the industry had navigated its way through Covid.
Smith said members of the Restaurant Association were already happy with the red light system, but the move to orange from Thursday night would "add that vibrancy which is missing in the evenings".
Rotorua Lakes Council community and regulatory services manager Kurt Williams said general observations from its patrollers and the police showed from a safety perspective things were quieter in the CBD this year compared with last.
The council worked with key safety stakeholders to respond to, and reduce, antisocial and criminal behaviour through vehicle and foot patrols, CCTV monitoring, and public education, he said.
"Patrols and CCTV monitoring have now shifted to a summer roster, focusing more intently on hours of busiest public activity."
He said foot and vehicle patrols were operating and security cameras were monitored daily while a mobile CCTV trailer was also being used "to help address concerns and act as a deterrent".
However, Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty president Reg Hennessy believed Rotorua's reputation was "ruined" and drunk people still roamed the CBD, intimidating people.
"It's going to take years to bounce back from the damage. There are homeless people aimlessly wandering around the streets who are drunk, belligerent and annoying customers," he claimed.
The impact on his business and the hospitality sector had been horrible, he said.
A souvenir shop owner who asked not to be named agreed, and said some of the people in the CBD who were causing a nuisance appeared to be on drugs.
Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said foundational work to help guide the development of a refreshed revitalisation plan for Rotorua's CBD was under way.
Key pieces of the project included the development of an inner-city design guide for urban development and work on an incentives policy to encourage commercial and residential development in the inner city.
The council was also engaging with mana whenua and Te Arawa about cultural foundations.
Previous CBD plans had been reviewed for consistent elements to provide a framework as a starting point for a new plan.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the degeneration of CBDs was an international phenomenon.
"It's been driven by a whole lot of things like mall shopping, easy parking and online shopping, you name it, there is a whole lot of issues. It has taken decades to get where it is at and the advent of Covid has sped up the process."
However, Heard said there was a substantial body of widespread support looking at the CBD and development in Rotorua.
There was a lot of work happening to re-establish the city as the tourism diamond of the North Island.
"It's taken decades to get where we are today and it's going to take quite a while to fix. The underlying issues are very deep."
But there were good news stories, with businesses wanting to be part of the CBD regeneration relocating.
We've moved and love the CBD
Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove is a passionate supporter of the CBD and has moved into another central premises to prove it.
The long-standing business was formerly on the corner of Eruera and Ranolf Sts, but moved to Tutanekai St.
Lovegrove said "eight major renovations and 45 years later", the building had served its purpose on the "iconic" corner.
However, he said it was time to "breathe a bit of new life into the business" for the company's 33 staff.
Lovegrove said Professionals McDowell had the Tutanekai St space advertised for lease, when the company decided to take it on.
The new office will feature a "little museum of McDowells" with the new fit-out including some of the historic memories.
The new building will also feature a sales meeting room named after Charles Sturt in memory of the former long-serving Rotorua district councillor and real estate agent who died last year.
Being part of the CBD meant the business was "about a 10-minute walk to anywhere" and said more free carparking and covered areas would only attract more businesses into the area.
"I think there is a potential for more vibrancy here."
He said Rotorua had some big show-off points as a city. It was strategically very commercially viable due to its proximity to other regions.
But he was astounded by opposing forces that were equally passionate about Rotorua's future.
"We can sit there and moan about homeless people and those in emergency housing and we have social issues that absolutely need dealt with.
"Somewhere along the line we are losing sight of the fact we need to deal with these issues in a way that doesn't contradict the story we are trying to tell as a city."