Five students from Taradale High School in the Hawke's Bay quizzed Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick for a school project on the social effects of tourism on Rotorua.
The students were in Rotorua earlier this month and Henry Taylor, who was the lead interviewer, said the answers were an eye-opener.
Mrs Chadwick, who was born and brought up in Hawke's Bay, said both districts knew what their strengths were.
She said Hawke's Bay's was wine and food while Rotorua's was mountain biking and spas, health and wellness.
"We run the Tulip Festival here every year now. We grow beautiful tulips here. We had 16 activities around the beautiful gardens and the tulips all opened for us. Any destination should be able to look at other products that tell your story of place and culture and how you could add tourism into that.
"What has changed is we understand the value of culture in our community and we have people who are willing to volunteer. For example, we attracted a group of volunteers for Crankworx, the Olympics of mountain biking. They were ambassadors for our place. They couldn't do enough to help tourists enjoy their experience. That is what every destination needs to look at. You don't grow tourism or events or conferences without your locals," Mrs Chadwick said.
The Taradale students, who were part of a 30-strong group visiting for two days, asked why tourists wanted to come to Rotorua and whether that was attracting investment.
"We've got the geothermal. They want to see that. Our challenge is sustainable tourism. How much can our forests take? How much can our lakes take? We need a sustainable plan to manage those numbers."
The students will complete the assignment this term.