Rotorua's tourism sector is booming as annual visitor expenditure hits $814.3 million and local operators report strong growth.
Destination Rotorua consumer marketing manager Tom Worsp said the city was on target to achieve its $1.5 billion visitor expenditure by 2030 and ''is nearly halfway there''.
In the year to the end of October, total expenditure from international and domestic visitors was $814.3m – a year-on-year increase of 6.7 per cent, he said.
Over the same timeframe there were 3.27 million visits to attractions and activities -up 3.4 per cent from the previous year.
Guest nights had also jumped to 2.24 million in Rotorua's commercial accommodation, 4.1 per cent over the previous year to date.
''These are significant results, and in nearly all cases, Rotorua is performing above the national average."
The results were a culmination of different factors, including a strong national visitor economy, and solid work that had been undertaken by the industry, Destination Rotorua, Rotorua Lakes Council and others, he said.
This includes the implementation and recent refresh of the Famously Rotorua campaign, which promoted Rotorua as a holiday destination for New Zealanders. Ongoing international activity had also ensured Rotorua stayed top-of-mind with trade and international agents, he said.
''This growth and confidence has led to a number of new operators entering the local tourism sector over the past year, and several key announcements relating to new ventures in accommodation, activities and attractions.
''Looking ahead to 2018, our focus is on attracting new investment in the region; attracting new talent and skills and reinforcing Rotorua as a lifestyle destination for relocation; and maintaining and increasing visitor interest and expenditure.''
Its focus was not just on increasing actual visitors, but more importantly, focusing on attracting higher value visitors, he said.
''Rotorua has a great deal to offer a wide range of stakeholders from around New Zealand and the world, and we will be working hard to showcase the city and its opportunities in 2018."
Skyline Rotorua general manager Andrew Jensen said it had been another solid year as its operation continued to grow.
It was expecting another busy summer season and had increased its staff by 40 this summer, from a combination of growth and extended hours.
''The luge and Stratosfare restaurant continue to be hugely popular with all ages. Equally, all of our other product experiences are also proving to be a hit and are continuing to grow, including Stargazing, Zipline and the MTB Gravity Park.''
Twilight luging was also getting a huge boost with new LED lights on its track and work was about to finish on a new concrete terrace in front of the restaurant, Jensen said.
''We remain extremely positive about the tourism sector in 2018 and we continue to work hard to ensure we are offering fresh experiences for locals and visitors alike.''
Meanwhile construction of a new multimillion-dollar conservation centre for Wingspan on iwi land on the northern slopes on Paradise Valley Rd was expected to start soon.
Director Debbie Stewart said the move had been driven by increased visitor numbers which averaged about 20,000 per year but could reach 100,000 per year according to its business plan.
Those included both international and domestic markets and ''a real trend for New Zealand families visiting''.
Stewart said she was excited about the relocation and the displays and interactive experiences in the pipeline ''will be even more spectacular''.
''It will put the Bay of Plenty on the map as the leaders in conservation, eco-tourism and the real visitor experience.''
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty/Waikato regional manager Alan Sciascia said a strong tourism market with national and international visitors helped to support the whole hospitality sector in Rotorua.
''We are not just talking about beds, activities and attractions but restaurants and cafes as well.''