Rotorua accommodation providers are gearing up for an influx of summer visitors, but New Zealanders' slow booking habits have put a dampener on pre-festive celebrations.
Destination Rotorua interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said feedback from its tourism and accommodation operators was New Zealanders' booking habits were changing.
''People are planning their holidays with much shorter lead times. Usually, non-hosted accommodation, like Bookabach, is booked further out and we know that properties around the lakes are filling up for summer.''
''Hotels and motels are experiencing a slower build, which means it's still too early to predict what summer will be like.''
Rotorua had always been a favourite holiday destination for New Zealanders.
''We will continue to promote the range of experiences that can be enjoyed here year-round. While our domestic marketing campaigns have traditionally focused on the quieter periods rather than the busy summer months, we've now adjusted our marketing strategy to include more regular campaigns throughout the year.''
In the lead-up to Christmas the organisation would be reminding New Zealanders about our beautiful lakes and forests, which made this the perfect summer destination, he said.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said the lockdowns had proven to be costly to many businesses and they would need a strong summer to recover some of those losses.
''Anyone wanting certainty for their accommodation needs over the traditional busy New Year period should book early as popular locations will no doubt fill up quickly.''
The Bay of Plenty was somewhat lucky as it was a popular holiday destination for many Kiwis, he said.
Airbnb's country manager for New Zealand and Australia Susan Wheeldon said it had been heartening to see Kiwis display such incredible enthusiasm for exploring their own backyard.
''Ahead of the Christmas holidays, we're particularly seeing interest surge in untapped regional areas within driving distance of major cities, and that includes places in the Western Bay of Plenty and around the Rotorua region.''
In the lead-up to summer, there had definitely been an increase in popularity for listings that bring guests close to nature.
Unique listings - such as treehouses, cabins, miniature homes and farm stays - are all highly sought after, as well as homes that are designed for relaxing and unwinding, with everything from panoramic views to outdoor baths.
Booking trends in Rotorua revealed Lake Tarawera was the most popular and up 35 per cent compared to last year.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said Rotorua was a natural destination for domestic visitors.
''The attractions are many and varied, and nearly all of them with a strong family flavour. Be it mountain biking, enjoying the sparkling lakes, adrenalin junky joyrides, dining and wining, outdoors activities, Māori culture, visiting bird and animal places, or just whiling the time away in pleasant surroundings – there are more visitor activities in Rotorua than any other city in New Zealand.''
With the advent of Covid, the domestic visitors to Rotorua had taken on a much more important place in the Rotorua economy.
''I am sure that our local attractions will be rolling out the red carpet to fellow Kiwis this summer.
''Come, stay, enjoy!''
On the downside, New Zealand Hotel Owners Association executive director Amy Robens said some regions were seeing better traction than others for the upcoming Christmas Holiday period, but overall hotel bookings were down by up to 40 per cent.
''Christmas bookings are generally slow off the mark. We're encouraging Kiwis to book well in advance and book direct or via their NZ travel agent to get the bests deals.''
She said hotels were being innovative with unique and highly competitive package deals, and working closely with Regional Tourism Organisations and local tourist attractions.
But Covid had hit the industry hard.
''We estimate that the hotel sector workforce has more than halved due to Covid-19. At peak, the hotel sector employed 20,000 people and has been with a heavy heart that hoteliers have had to make mass redundancies with many people being in loyal service for 10, 20 or 30 years.''
The financial toll on hotels continues to climb as hotels are expensive assets to run and maintain.
''Business confidence within the sector is much bleaker than general business confidence, with hotels facing immediate cashflow problems and an uncertain future outlook given the slow recovery of international visitor markets of which the majority of hotels heavily rely.''
In April and May alone, when the country was in lockdown alert level 4, hotel room revenue plummeted by 84 per cent and the sector lost $185 million, she said.