A Rotorua jet boat tourism operation that has lost 85 per cent of its business due to the loss of international visitors will shut its doors for at least 18 months.
Riverjet owner Nick Berryman said the company was a casualty of Covid-19 and "the writing has been on the wall for 12 months''.
''It was inevitable.''
Running costs of about $8000 to $10,000 a week had also impacted its ability to compete combined with the fact about 85 per cent of its business had come from international tourists.
"Unfortunately, everyone wanted us to give discounts and do deals, but our running costs don't go away."
The gut-wrenching decision also meant his five fulltime staff had to find other jobs.
"Collectively they had years of knowledge about the tourism industry, and the industry has lost some great workers."
The reopening of Riverjet would depend on the border opening and international visitor numbers.
"We do plan to reopen. However, I think it will be an absolute minimum of 18 months before we can do that."
Berryman was also critical of how Rotorua had been portrayed in the media as doing well in the midst of the international tourism downturn when he believed it was not.
"We need to show how dire the situation is ... as soon as you soften it people go 'Rotorua is doing all right', but we are not doing all right.
"Businesses aren't shutting because we want to."
Meanwhile, his other tourism business Lakes Lodge Okataina, which remains open, was 50 to 60 per cent down.
Berryman said he hoped that when international tourism was able to start up again that the Government would help businesses in hibernation get back on their feet with the likes of a one-off start-up grant.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick told the Rotorua Daily Post the council was aware of the significant challenges and the long road ahead for tourism operators and acknowledged that some businesses were feeling the impact more acutely than others.
"I encourage the business community to link up with each other and with those organisations such as Rotorua Economic Development, who are exploring new and innovative ways to tap into the domestic market, and the business chamber that can support and assist them during this uncertain period."
She said the council continued to work closely with central government and its agencies to ensure it got the right sort of support for the district, to support those that were struggling.
"Provincial Growth Funding and other government investment into Rotorua over the past few years has made a difference to our place and our people, and we will continue to explore opportunities that may arise through government policy."
Rotorua Economic Development interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said domestic travel was hugely important for local tourism businesses and they appreciated all New Zealanders who had visited Rotorua over the past year.
"We know it's been difficult for our local tourism businesses who are suffering from a reduced visitor economy, with businesses who are dependent on high international visitor volume suffering more than others.
"Fortunately as we head into winter we'll see a significant increase in the number of planned conferences set for Rotorua – up 30 per cent on 2019.
"This provides welcomed opportunity for both tourism and accommodation providers, particularly given the number of delegates attending these conferences are also set to increase by 40 per cent."
He said business events were an important source of visitors.
"This sector contributes $50 million to our local economy each year and business travellers typically come here during the week and off-peak season.
"Earlier this week we launched a new marketing campaign promoting Rotorua as a destination for business incentive travel and team building events."
Wilson said while the city was experiencing the impact of the Covid pandemic, domestic travel would remain unpredictable.
"Pre-Covid, 60 per cent of tourists visiting Rotorua were domestic and we continue to actively encourage all New Zealanders to travel to Rotorua and enjoy the activities on offer through a range of targeted marketing campaigns.
"We continue to work closely with local tourism businesses to provide information and help them navigate support resources.
"We're also advocating strongly on their behalf to ensure Rotorua is top of mind as government departments make decisions that could affect our district."