Emotions are running high for Rotorua accommodation providers as they brace themselves for an unpredictable Christmas holiday season that, for some, could be their quietest yet.
Providers had mixed reactions with one motel booked out and another expecting it "to go mad" while one holiday provider expected it would be "the worst Christmas we have ever had".
The Rotorua Economic Development also said accommodation bookings for after Christmas were strong.
Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park owner Jared Adams said he couldn't have imagined his business in worse straits.
"It'll definitely the worst Christmas we've ever had, ever," Adams told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Adams said after the traffic light system came into effect, his business had experienced more cancellations than bookings.
"Because we're in a red zone, people are scared. While we can be open if you want to go on holiday I don't know why you would plan on going to a red area when there are so many places in orange to choose from."
Adams said while there were some guests booked in over the December and January period, business was much quieter than previous years.
"We've got gaps everywhere."
Adams said with no international tourism and reduced domestic tourism he struggled to see anyone in tourism having the best summer of their life.
"I'm sure we will pick up a bit. We're hoping for some last-minute bookings after Auckland opens up next week."
Aura Accommodation managing director Nick Fitzgerald said bookings were coming in slower than expected at this time of the year.
"While we have seen a bit of a jump in bookings from the 15th to 16th we are also seeing that historical lull just before Christmas and then from Christmas into January we're a bit slower than we would normally be."
When asked to compare this season with Christmas 2020, Fitzgerald said business was even slower this year.
"There's uncertainty around what having a holiday looks like at the moment so people, I believe, are holding out a little bit.
"But we are seeing enough booking activity to be optimistic about the summer."
All Seasons Holiday Park co-owner Tracie Thornborough said this summer was definitely going to be quieter than previous years.
"We've still got quite a few people that haven't actually confirmed that they're coming. They're just tentatively waiting."
But Thornborough said she thought the business would be okay.
"I hope that people will get over their worries and come along and have a holiday."
Rocksolid Backpackers duty manager and group co-ordinator Teegan Tangiora said the coming season looked better than 2020 but was still quieter than pre-pandemic times.
"Last year was not too great but this year is a lot better in terms of being able to promote the business.
"Over the Christmas period we have gone up to 50 per cent occupancy compared to the 4 per cent we've been at lately."
Tangiora said the team at Rocksolid was looking forward to having people coming through their doors again.
Other accommodation providers had a more positive view of the coming weeks.
Sport of Kings Motel manager Tristen Williams said work had been very quiet but this was "expected".
"We've used our time wisely. We've done up all our rooms."
Williams said she expected to be busier after next week.
"We're fully booked over Christmas. It gets quieter around mid-January but I think that will change once Auckland gets out and people get used to the traffic light system.
"Kiwis like to travel. They won't stay home for long. I think it's going to go mad."
Williams said she and her staff were still getting used to the traffic light system but have been following all the Government's directions.
"We want to make sure we keep our place the safest for everybody."
Rose Court Motel receptionist Thea Xu said their 40 units were already fully booked for the three weeks around the Christmas holidays.
"But we may receive a cancellation any minute."
Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Andrew Wilson said accommodation bookings for after Christmas were strong.
"[This] is a good sign for our visitor industry as we move into the summer holiday period."
Wilson said the hope was that vaccination rates lifting will allow Rotorua to move into the orange light setting.
"However we are still open for business regardless of what light we are operating in."
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Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said Rotorua was "dying" for the Auckland market to open.
"We're very hopeful that Aucklander will see Rotorua as a viable holiday, short-stay option.
"I know that many of the tourism and hospitality operators will welcome them with open arms."
Donaldson said the vaccination rates in the area and the use of vaccine passes would add up to send Aucklanders the message that Rotorua was a safe destination.
"We have fewer active cases in the community than most other North Island centres.
"We're hoping upon hope that we will move to the orange level soon so we can have events as well.
"Come on down. Rotorua's ready and willing."
Meanwhile, Ōpōtiki District Council was backing calls from iwi leaders to try to block Aucklanders from travelling to the district.