Inquiries for accommodation in Rotorua are up nearly 140 per cent for the winter school holidays and locals are confident the next two weeks will be strong for the tourism sector.
News some Rotorua hotels would be isolation facilities for returning Kiwis may have put a glitch in some travellers' plans but that appeared to have died down, Rotorua Hotel Association president Blair Chalmers said.
"There was a wee bit of panic when that news came out and there were a few cancellations but that has since calmed and demand is still strong.
"Inquiries are picking up and while it's a hard one to peg, I think we can expect some strong numbers for Rotorua, possibly even stronger than in previous years because people are itching to get away."
Meanwhile, Rotorua's motels are looking to get their fair share of bookings as well with association president Mike Gallagher saying the outlook was looking positive.
"We've been looking good for about a month or two. It's good people are hopping in their cars and visiting, all the attractions we have to offer are ready for them.
"The highway between Auckland and Rotorua gets faster every year so we are in a prime position as the closest major tourist destination to take advantage of that."
Data released by Wotif this week backs up these claims, with accommodation interest for Rotorua up nearly 140 per cent for the winter school holidays.
Wotif.co.nz managing director Daniel Finch said Kiwi families had a new-found appreciation for local travel after spending months indoors.
"As Kiwi families look forward to a well-deserved getaway, familiar holiday hotspots are gaining traction, with destinations including Taupo, Queenstown and Rotorua seeing strong interest in accommodation.
"After months of uncertainty, families will start to embrace travel again by heading to familiar experiences where they feel most comfortable.
"We're also seeing operators relax strict cancellation policies and offer better flexibility, to help travellers with peace of mind, so it's a great time to get back out the and enjoy a local getaway."
Destination Rotorua executive manager visitor services Graham Brownrigg said the i-SITE team had been working hard to find accommodation for last-minute bookings, although, "most people have clearly been planning their holidays for some time and the destination is filling up fast".
"We're also responding to lots of inquiries and booking requests for activities and attractions, which is a good sign."
Destination Rotorua interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said it was shaping up to be a busy school holiday period in Rotorua, which was great news for the visitor economy.
"Visitor numbers during the last few weekends have been higher than normal for this time of the year as New Zealanders have taken up the call to explore their own country.
"However, operators will be looking forward to a steadier flow throughout the next two weeks as the holidays help move the emphasis away from a reliance on weekend travel."
Wilson said it had been great to see more local businesses reopening this week and others expending their operating hours, especially for the holidays.
"It's the perfect time for New Zealanders to come and experience all that Rotorua has to offer."
One of those local businesses is Māori tourism operator Tamaki Tours which reopened yesterdayfor the first time since lockdown.
Operations and marketing manager Lady Saifiti said she was anticipating a busy two weeks as domestic travellers chose to spend their money in Rotorua.
"The demand is nothing like what we had before but it's definitely looking positive. One evening we've booked 86 people, we did a little dance when we saw those numbers.
"We are working on a future plan at the moment. We would love to stay open after the school holidays but we are still gauging how good the market is."
Tamaki Tours will be running on set nights, Friday to Sunday and Tuesday evenings.
In a military update at the Rotorua Lakes Council Operations and Monitoring Committee meeting on Thursday, Lieutenant Colonel Chad Preece reassured councillors that "in no way do we want to have any isolation facility that is co-shared by anyone else".
"We know it takes up hotel beds which is unfortunate but as the PM alluded to yesterday, there needs to be a certain amount of accommodation that means they can stay in a bubble and have access to a bathroom and a bed."
Mayor Steve Chadwick thanked Preece for their consideration as we go into the school holidays and "the assurance we have adequate beds for people to come to stay and these facilities are totally for quarantine".