Spending in Rotorua by Kiwi tourists eclipsed pre-Covid levels by $8 million in the year to October, card data shows.
While businesses and experts say that isn't enough to plug the hole left by overseas visitors, with international spending down $112m compared to before the pandemic, some are hoping an upturn is on the way.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment domestic tourism electronic card transaction data showed $294m was spent in Rotorua in the year ending in October.
That compared to $270m for the same period ending in 2020 and $286m pre-pandemic.
The data does not include other forms of spending such as cash, pre-purchases or online transactions.
Before the pandemic, Rotorua earned $128m from international tourism. Last year that figure was reduced to $16m as borders continued to be restricted.
In the year to October, domestic tourists spent most on retail sales - $76m up from $65m in 2019.
Spending on cultural, recreational and gambling services was down $10m, from $34m in October 2019.
Last year, the highest revenue month for Rotorua was January, when visitors spent $39m.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the spending reflected a transfer of money from some industries to others.
"There have been winners and losers in Covid," Heard told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"Those sectors going well are disguising the sectors that are suffering.
"Some of the people in some of the product lines have done better, car sales for example."
Markets Twelve 21 business development executive Julia Haira said she found the figures "hard to swallow".
"I can't see that. That's not been our experience."
Haira said prior to the 2021 lockdowns, Markets Twelve 21 stallholders were doing well.
"Our food businesses prior to the second lockdown were easily earning around $700 a day and retail was earning between $300 and $500 a day, so it was really good."
Haira said since reopening in October, business at the indoor market had been "extremely slow".
Haira said businesses had been earning half pre-lockdown revenues.
Hospitality NZ accommodation sector Rotorua vice-chairman and Aura Accommodation owner Nick Fitzgerald said domestic tourism did not paint the full picture for the city.
"The domestic numbers are all a bit skewed because in 2019 the domestic market didn't really account for a lot of our income."
Fitzgerald said the year ending October 2021 had included some "record months" for some.
"In the year you're talking about there have been periods where earning has been really strong.
"My experience is when there have been periods of unrestricted travel people have been doing better than anticipated."
MDA Experiences co-owner and operations director Tak Mutu said, as a whole, the data was consistent with his business' experience.
"It is reflective of what we've seen, an increase in domestic spend and an almost entire decimation of international spend.
"This summer's been an interesting one. It hasn't felt as busy as last summer."
Mutu said it felt as if the Auckland lockdown and the arrival of Delta and Omicron in New Zealand had affected people's travel habits.
"People have been just a bit reluctant to leave home and book things in advance."
Mutu said he was expecting a "pretty good bump" in business come the end of January.
"We've put a significant investment in the forest and we've started to see that pay off. The number of inquiries for February and March are looking pretty damn good."
Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Andrew Wilson said domestic spending had remained relatively flat for the past three years.
"We expect that this will continue through 2022.
Wilson said businesses could start to gear up for a strong return of international visitors this year.
"They would strongly benefit from a funding package consistent to what was received last year by the five regions in the South Island.
"As a destination that has always been heavily reliant on international visitors, Rotorua has been similarly impacted which presents a strong case for additional funding support."
• No jab, no job: Nurses, midwives among 25 Lakes DHB staff sacked
• Rotorua's new median house price $680,000. What will it be in 2022?
• Confiscated: Look what people try to smuggle into court
Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said it was good to see domestic tourism spending "holding".
"That's not surprising given people are holidaying in New Zealand or at home."
Donaldson said the Lakefront Playground and forest redevelopment were proving to be drawcards but there was still a level of anxiety about what the rest of the summer will bring.
"More government funding support may be needed with vaccines, boosters and mask-wearing also vital to keep the workforce at the coalface servicing the visitor industry."