Tourism operators say they need time, resilience and planning to recover from the harsh pressures of Covid-19.
Secret Spot co-owner Eric Kolver said he was "facing reality and mixing that with optimism".
"We're basically in a river and we've just gone into a gorge. There's only one way out: keep sharp and keep paddling."
Kolver's comments come after Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Rotorua's tourism industry, "will never be as it was before", in a regional mayoral forum last week.
While Rotorua's tourism operators do not disagree with Chadwick's assessment, they say there is hope on the horizon.
Secret Spot co-owner Eric Kolver said business had been "very, very tough" as the loss of customers from Auckland and Hamilton accounted for about half the weekend market.
"We can't control what we can't control. We try not to anticipate what's coming up because you can burn a lot of energy up doing that.
"The new sort of way of business is if you can get some good weekends then you can roll with the quieter weeks."
Kolver said the focus was on building Secret Spot's strengths for next year.
"Although it sounds crazy we're investing in projects that will probably not pay back until another 12 months or so down the line."
Kolver said the business had doubled its staff count and was significantly ahead of its original pre-Covid forecasts for guest visitation.
"We try to look after the locals," Kolver said.
"They're a big part of the business and it's heartening that they can see Secret Spot as being part of their backyard."
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said there was no denying Covid-19 had severely impacted Rotorua's tourism operators.
"It will take time to heal and rebuild. However, that does not mean we will not reach the highs we experienced pre-Covid, in time."
Cossar said airlines recommitting to flying to New Zealand would play a big part in rebuilding tourism.
"It is our hope, based on current information, that we will start seeing international customers returning towards the end of quarter one, next year."
In the meantime, Cossar believed it was important to prioritise quality over quantity, ensuring that manaakitanga remained at the core of the New Zealand experience.
"Rotorua and Te Puia have a strong brand that has been forged over many years. As a destination, we are well known for our key attributes and these will always appeal."
Cossar said the resilience Te Puia and other businesses had learned in the past year would help them to navigate the future.
When asked about how the Covid-19 vaccine certificate could affect business, Cossar said Te Puia was waiting for more information from the Government.
"A defined plan heading into the end-of-year festive season will help businesses to recover lost ground through pre-Christmas functions and events, and put many in a better position to gain a more sustainable commercial footing."
Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Andrew Wilson said he knew many operators had been working relentlessly to prepare for the return of visitors.
"Despite the well-known impacts of Covid-19, we're optimistic that the tourism sector and wider visitor industry in Rotorua will make a strong comeback."
Wilson said vaccination certificates would provide businesses with confidence and help them ensure the safety of their staff.
"It will also give people confidence to visit tourism attractions, shop, dine out, and enjoy all the things that make our city a great place to live and visit.
"The best thing we can do is to encourage everyone to get vaccinated so that Rotorua can remain open and the rest of the country can come and visit."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he had made comments similar to Chadwick's in the past.
"I think it will take a long time to get back to where we were and [our tourism industry] could look different when we do.
"We've lost international customers, our attractions are damaged. We've lost staff and expertise. If the tourists came back tomorrow I think we'd be behind."
Heard said the industry could come back better but it would take more than two years.
"Rotorua's got so much going for it. Rotorua is geothermal, the world centre of Māoritanga, plantation forests and our lakes. There is so much to do here."
He said the vaccination certificate was "a very positive step forward".
"We have got to think of the people who are vaccinating."
Heard said the move was essential to incentivise vaccinations and open up the New Zealand economy.
According to an Infometrics report prepared for the Rotorua Lakes Council last year, tourism accounted for 23 per cent of Rotorua's economy in 2019, compared to 9 per cent nationally.