Tourism New Zealand boss Stephen England-Hall has quit to take the top job at Qeenstown's Wayfare group of tourism businesses.
England-Hall said his move reflected confidence in an industry he was bullish about but one that faced big challenges.
He said it was a case of jumping ''from a frying pan into a bigger frying pan on the front line'' and he looked forward to bringing new blood to Wayfare within an industry that would change, even when borders re-open.
''There is no going back to what was there before, only what we can build tomorrow. It's not how to get back to what it was,'' he told the Herald.
''Most of my career has been stepping into things when others wouldn't but I'm up for the challenge when maybe it seems impossible. There is a time and a place for stepping into the breach from a leadership point of view I feel very strongly I can do something from the front line.''
Tourism New Zealand chairman Jamie Tuuta said that over the last four years England-Hall had done a ''fantastic job'' growing preference for New Zealand internationally and domestically through innovative activity and supporting and advocating for the industry."
The focus of the Crown entity shifted to promoting domestic tourism this year after tourism to this country was halted by the pandemic.
"As we continue to face Covid-19 challenges, it's an incredibly important time to continue our work to encourage domestic visitation and support the industry, so we will be recruiting for a new chief executive immediately," said Tuuta.
England-Hall will remain in the Tourism New Zealand chief executive role until January 2021.
The Tourism New Zealand board will appoint an acting role shortly who will undertake handover with him over the coming months and cover the role until a permanent replacement is appointed.
England-Hall will relocate from Auckland to Queenstown to join Wayfare in late January 2021.
England-Hall joined Tourism New Zealand in March 2017.
Wayfare was originally founded in 1954 by tourism and conservation pioneers Sir Les and Olive Hutchins and is still privately owned by the family.
It comprises four tourism brands: Cardrona Alpine Resort, Go Orange, the International Antarctic Centre and Real Journeys where it started more than 60 years ago. In the 2018-19 year the activities attracted about 1.6 million visitors.
Its main markets are Latin/South America, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Thailand, South East Asia, Singapore, Europe (All), Hong Kong, Central Europe/Germany, China, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe.
Real Journeys is the biggest part of the group and suffered heavily when international tourism came to a halt. It has claimed more than $2.5m in wage subsidies this year for staff numbers that fell from 278 in March to 116 in August.
Wayfare chairman Jim Boult said the board was delighted with the appointment of England-Hall.
"Mr England-Hall brings with him a wealth of tourism industry knowledge and deep understanding of both the domestic and international markets that will be invaluable in these extraordinary times."
Stephen England-Hall's previous roles include executive of Loyalty NZ, the company behind customer loyalty and data coalition Flybuys and the analytics business LAB360, as well as senior executive of leading international digital marketing data and technology companies.
"We are especially excited by Stephen's expertise in the digital world. His hands-on experience in what it means to be a digitally enabled consumer business will be vital to the 'new normal' for Wayfare," said Boult.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said England-Hall had done done a fine job at Tourism New Zealand, particularly this year leading the organisation in a new direction.
He had also made a valuable contribution to TIA board member.
''I'm very pleased that the tourism industry will not be losing his skills and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role at Wayfare, which includes some of New Zealand's most iconic tourism operations."