Rotorua's hospitality and visitor industries say they are walking on a "tight rope" and are torn between welcoming back Aucklanders and being afraid of another Covid-19 outbreak.
Within hours of Auckland moving to alert level 2.5 yesterday, crowds of people started swarming into the city's airport ready to make their escape after being in lockdown since August 12.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Aucklanders should not visit aged care homes in any part of the country and shouldn't be attending mass gatherings in other cities or regions.
She said this wouldn't be enforced, but she appealed to people's "common sense" and said there would be an element of trust.
Velocity Valley managing director Simon Short said the beauty of their operation was that it was outdoors, spacious and social distancing rules could easily be obeyed.
He was in two minds about how he felt about the return of Aucklanders to the local market.
"All I can say is I am yet again in a moment of torn emotions. On one hand we desperately need the business that Aucklanders provide but a larger part of me is saying this could put us in an even worse position in another month or two. It seems they are lining up to get out and with cases still present and so it can only spread. Not a good prospect."
Pig and Whistle Bar and Capers Cafe and Store owner Gregg Brown had mixed views.
"We walk a tight rope. Rotorua's hospitality, tourism and accommodation sectors are not sustainable without domestic tourism. Balancing that with no one wanting the virus to spread further than it already has makes it a very tough decision."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she welcomed visitors to Rotorua but advised those who were sick to stay away.
"Everybody is a bit jittery so don't come if you're sick, follow the Covid tracing - there has been big pick up locally, and stick to the precautions that we are all following including wearing a mask."
She said hospitality and tourism in Rotorua had been profoundly affected by the second wave of Covid-19 but she was looking forward to it picking up again.
"During [Auckland's] level 3 we certainly noticed the tap turned off here in Rotorua and it was very noticeable, very marked."
Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park owner Jared Adams said he was happy to have Auckland out of alert level 3.
"Auckland is a lifeline to Rotorua and many other destinations in New Zealand, especially without the international market they have been a God send, every Kiwi. I do have a little concern as no one wants it spread around the country either but it's been very quiet since the announcement (on August 11)."
Destination Rotorua interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said it had been a quiet few weeks for Rotorua's tourism, retail and hospitality businesses so operators would be looking forward to welcoming Aucklanders back.
"The reduction in alert levels is good timing for Father's Day this weekend and a number of businesses are offering great deals to help locals and visitors celebrate the occasion."
Wilson said public safety remained the number one priority.
"I'm confident that our tourism and hospitality businesses are following Government guidelines and putting in place the appropriate measures to ensure that staff and visitors are safe."
But Rotorua Motel Association chairman Mike Gallagher said the restrictions on Auckland highlighted the importance of the Auckland market as a "powerhouse".
He said there had been no influx in bookings like there was after the last lockdown and he was worried it was a sign of people bracing themselves and watching their spending closely.
He said there were "thousands of dollars of cancellations within a few hours" after the announcement Auckland would move to alert level 3 just over two weeks ago.
"Maybe people are more cautious ... maybe some people are now looking at their jobs thinking - we probably need to be a bit more careful.
"It's highlighted how potentially fragile this sector is going to be moving forward. It's going to really challenge some of the businesses that aren't well established."
He said the future was uncertain for the sector and the next big challenge was getting bookings and hoped there would not be price wars.
"As much as we're all on our knees, we are in this together, and we just need to try and get through the best we can."
But a saving grace for accommodation in Rotorua was the high number of Ministry of Social Development motels and three isolation hotels which helped open up the other motels for domestic travel, he said.
Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty manager Alan Sciascia said more Aucklanders might come here but we could also lose some locals to Auckland.
Sciascia said it was possible some Auckland groups would relocate their functions in outer regions as the city would still have restrictions of groups of 10 while the rest of the country could have up to 100.
However, generally speaking he was not concerned with Aucklanders visiting the region as at this stage "the current cluster seems to be contained".
Alert level 2 had been difficult, especially for accommodation businesses and those which rely on their customers being able to socialise, he said.
"We do expect that businesses will fail and jobs will be lost if these restrictions continue."