Since the Covid-19 pandemic closed New Zealand's borders, Kiwis have been exploring their own backyard like never before.
Unfortunately, those predominantly weekend-based trips are not totally filling the void left by the removal of international guests.
Speaking at an event in Rotorua today, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall said it took 480 domestic overnight trips to spend the same amount as 40 international visitors.
"That is why the recovery of New Zealand's tourism sector necessitates a two-pronged attack."
Rotorua tourism stakeholders gathered at the Novotel today for the latest stop on the Tourism New Zealand Roadshow.
England-Hall said the industry faced many challenges but there were also many opportunities.
"The main challenge has two parts. We need internationals as part of the mix but the benefit of Covid, from a system perspective, is recognising the importance of domestic tourism.
"Rather than being oriented towards internationals, we have a holistic approach to tourism that is domestic and international. In order for us to get the kinds of economic, social and environmental outcomes we want in the long term, we need to have that mix."
England-Hall said every $178,000 of tourism spend created a job in the industry.
The spending of international guests is "significantly higher" than that of domestic tourists. It takes 480 domestic overnight trips to spend enough to create a new job while it only takes 40 international visitors to generate the same amount.
While the activity of domestic tourists was encouraging and there was a lot of activity during the weekends and holidays, there was still a lull in between those times, when Kiwis went back to their day jobs, which international visitors would usually fill.
For that reason, while domestic tourism must continue to be encouraged, it was also crucial not to "go dark" in overseas markets, he said.
"Keeping the brand alive will help with connectivity. When the airlines start to reconnect countries, competition between countries is going to be much higher.
"We want to make sure there is sufficient consumer demand in those markets to justify aviation connectivity.
"Every six months of a brand being dark or being absent takes between three and five years to rebuild the same level of brand awareness. It would be hugely detrimental to our country if we just stopped being prevalent," England-Hall said.
Speaking at the event, Destination Rotorua interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said tourism was "absolutely critically important" to rebuild Rotorua and New Zealand's tourism sector.
"About a third of our workforce is directly or indirectly employed in the tourism industry," he said.
"In terms of challenges and opportunities, we've seen some really positive results over the third quarter as New Zealanders have taken up the challenge to get out and explore our country. The July school holidays, in particular, were really great.
"However, the risk of further lockdowns and Auckland going back into lockdown has weighed heavily on us. That certainly impacted in terms of people's booking habits."
Wilson said most business owners in the Rotorua tourism sector were still "coming to terms" with staffing challenges.
"We have this massive peak of activity on weekends but midweek without international visitors, it's really challenging. There are peaks and troughs and that's something we're acutely aware of."
Looking ahead, Wilson said this was a chance to work together and reshape Rotorua as a destination for when the borders open again.
"We're already seeing a number of businesses that are reinvesting in their people and product. The likes of Te Puia, Volcanic Air and Tamaki [Māori Village] have all spent considerable time and energy on how to redefine options for both domestic and further afield to when international visitors resume."