A hotel serving the luxury travel, conferences and group tour market says a surge of bookings puts it on track to reach pre-Covid revenue by the end of the year.
Hilton Taupō manager Tracey Poole says travellers have responded quickly to the establishment of quarantine-free travel across the Tasman.
Based on current projections, she expects to return to pre-pandemic revenue levels by the fourth quarter of this year. She said event bookings for May and June were the strongest they had been for a decade.
"While domestic bookings during the pandemic have been at times record-setting, the revenue earned per night is significantly lower than what we would have seen pre-Covid with a mix of international tourists."
With more Australians staying at the 113-room hotel, it was now seeing an increase in spending on food and premium wines as well add-ons such as mini-bars, in-room dining and activities it organises.
"We believe this will see us return to pre-Covid revenues before the end of the year," said Poole.
She said conference enquiries at the five-star property have already increased significantly since the travel bubble was opened.
Taupō quickly got a bounce from the return of domestic tourism following lockdown last year and its proximity to winter attractions makes it popular with Australians.
The Hilton now had more than 50 events booked for the coming 12 months, some of them being credits from postponed gatherings last year. About 10 per cent of these bookings were confirmed since the bubble reopened, originating from a mix of Australasian businesses operating on both sides of the Tasman.
Meeting and event demand was particularly strong from the technology sector as well as transtasman automotive, fashion, and hospitality industries - with one company booking three separate conferences with more than 100 attendees.
"Our venue can accommodate meetings of up to 140 people and we now have several of these bookings, taking us to maximum capacity already."
People were tiring of virtual meetings, said Poole.
"The immediate response from the Australasian conference industry is driven by a desire for businesses to reconnect with staff and customers following a year of social distancing and video conferencing."
And Poole said the opening of the bubble has also brought a number of luxury tour operators out of hibernation.
Australian luxury travellers are looking for premium experiences and typically spend more here than their Kiwi counterparts.
"As a result, a number of group tour and activity operators are now reopening, which means we are once again working with them to provide the kind of unique niche experiences that help define New Zealand tourism for this part of the market."
One example was a charter helicopter tour that allows tourists to come from Auckland to Taupō, where they land on a helipad, have lunch at the hotel and then head back north.
"We have also been able to work again with a number of premium tour operators offering boating and bike tours as well as other activities available in the region including golf, jet boat rides, fly fishing, scenic tours fishing and Māori cultural experience tours - for the first time since Covid began," she said.
Poole said most of the conference planners were also now looking for wellness-inspired elements to their company events.
"Many industry event enquiries coming through have some sort of health and wellbeing element that can be incorporated into it."
Poole said while the rapid growth in conference bookings and international tourists was welcome, the hotel's focus will now be on recruitment, ensuring it is well resourced to manage the larger events over the coming months.
The hotel had 85 staff compared to about 110 pre-Covid.