Staycations, cut-price campervans and cheap tourism activities have enticed Kiwi travellers back on the road for Queen's Birthday weekend, but the struggle to survive Covid-19 continues.
There's still plenty of travel deals on offer for the long weekend as domestic tourism ramps up with the further easing of alert level 2 restrictions.
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And with many hotels and adventure activities already fully booked, operators say the timing couldn't be better after lockdown slashed occupancy rates to just 15 per cent in April.
Love Taupō marketing and communications manager Anna McLaren said long weekend package deals had been "selling like hotcakes".
They included weekend away packages for couples or families to Taupō, Tūrangi and Tongariro, which were being snapped up though the agency's social media channels.
"We've had a heap of enquiries which has just been really exciting. So there definitely seems to be some appetite for domestic travellers to look at package offerings."
McLaren said the visitors were a mix of Kiwis and international travellers who had been hunkering down in New Zealand during lockdown.
Other deals on offer included 20 per cent off Doughboats, $88 jumps at AJ Hackett Taupō Bungy, $199 skydiving with Skydive Taupō and half-price prawns at the Huka Prawn Park restaurant.
High-end deals included the ultimate house party at Kinloch Manor with exclusive use of eight villas for two nights, for up to 40 guests, at $9296 per night.
While around the lake at Mt Ruapehu Whakapapa skifield couldn't open, the Sky Waka would be open for sightseeing over Queen's Birthday weekend - weather permitting.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Cave, a popular combo-tour, is being offered at 30 per cent less than normal at $70 for an adult.
Tours on opening weekend last week were almost fully booked and it's expected this weekend, with the extension of some tour capacity from 10 to 20 people per trip, will also be a sell-out success.
And if visitors turn up in a Britz or Maui campervan they get 50 per cent off.
That's because Tourism Holdings Ltd (thl), the owners of both the Waitomo Caves and Maui Rentals, is also running a promotion on its campervans to entice travellers back.
After thl announced the slashed prices on Monday, the Maui Rentals website crashed under the huge response from Kiwis looking for a cheap motorhome holiday, many of whom managed to hire a vehicle from as little as $29 a night for Queen's Birthday weekend and beyond.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said numbers were noticeably up at tourism venues around the region.
At the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata, tours had increased from three to 23 this Saturday alone, while Te Aroha Mineral Spas was also booked up.
The Jet Park Hotel in Hamilton had 30 per cent off accommodation and go-karting at Hampton Downs was discounted, Dawson said.
"Kiwis love a bargain. It's about making sure that operators still hold the cost of what they're delivering but it's really positive signs."
In Rotorua, Prince's Gate Hotel general manager Yuri Ponstijn said a $149 "staycation" entitled a couple to one night with breakfast at the boutique hotel where bookings were solid for the weekend.
A family of four could stay for $199, while on Monday the hotel would be one of three destinations around the country to host a High Tea in honour of the Queen's birthday.
However, he said it was the long-term survival of the tourism industry that was unclear.
"It's what happens after [the long weekend] that is still a bit uncertain."
New Zealand Hotel Owners Association executive director Amy Robens said hotel owners were working with tourism operators to put packages together but it was still economically tough.
"Although it's fantastic hotels are receiving bookings it certainly does not get us out of survival mode," she said.
"Because a lot of hotels have been closed and so severely impacted by Covid-19 and it's going to be a long road to recovery.
"Hotels are very expensive assets to maintain and to manage and they have to operate at critical mass so that they can be profitable.
"So while [this weekend] is helpful, it's certainly not the silver lining that's needed for everything to move forward and get back to normal, because it really is just one weekend."
She said offering deals under these circumstances was difficult after occupancy had dropped from upwards of 80 per cent to 15 per cent for most during lockdown.
"We can't just suddenly drop prices completely because of all of the fixed costs that go with running a hotel."
Occupancy was expected to settle on 25 per cent until the end of the year, she said.
Meanwhile, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is encouraging drivers heading away for the long weekend in the Auckland and Northland region to take care and be prepared for heavy traffic, delays and changeable weather.