Rotorua has had a booming two weeks with tourist attractions packed and some eateries having to turn people away as domestic travellers flock to the town for the school holidays.
While the future is still filled with uncertainty, Rotorua tourism and hospitality businesses have bounced back strongly so far.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said many businesses were in a better position than expected.
Heard said the reasons were primarily because during the school holidays lots of "would-be overseas travellers" had chosen to holiday in Rotorua.
"They have a lot of money in their pockets to spend and thankfully, a lot of these holidaymakers have been big supporters of our cafes, restaurants and tourism activities.
"We are also seeing high occupancy rates, particularly over the weekend, and I have heard one report that some of the upper-end hotels had up to 96 per cent occupancy."
"Although during the week that has dropped right down again," Heard said.
"But how long this situation will last and how long the Covid-19 crisis lasts we really don't know and we also don't know what impact foreshadowed Government's pre-election spending will have on the local economy."
Destination Rotorua's interim chief executive, Andrew Wilson, said tourism and hospitality businesses were experiencing higher than normal visitor numbers for this time of the year as New Zealanders took up the call to explore their own country.
"It's been great to see even more local businesses reopening over the past couple of weeks and others extending their operating hours, especially for the holidays."
Wilson said the ongoing challenge for the industry was managing staffing levels to meet the emphasis on weekend travel outside of the school holiday period.
Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park owner Stuart Hamlett said business had been "very good" since lockdown ended.
"I think everybody is really surprised at how many people are coming to Rotorua and going to tourist attractions. I believe that is happening all over the country. Despite everybody's convictions that it wouldn't be like that, it's amazing, the local tourism industry is coming along really well."
Hamlett said the increase in visitors was down to a desire to support local but also those who would normally travel overseas looking for something to do.
"They want to get out and about and it's school holidays. People are stuck in New Zealand and there's only one place to go; your local attractions.
"I was talking to another attraction manager and he thought there was a really good vibe among the people and I had to concur with him. It's a very good vibe, it's a bit different to before the world turned upside down.
"[Rotorua being centrally located] is a big key to it. Not only is it good for Auckland and Hamilton but Tauranga has pretty much got double the population of Rotorua and then there's satellite towns like Whakatāne, Taupō plus Hawke's Bay and all the other little towns. We're very, very fortunate where we're placed."
New Zealand Hospitality Bay of Plenty president Reg Hennessy, who owns Hennessy's Irish Bar in Rotorua, said last weekend he had to turn people away because he was fully booked and many other restaurants and bars had the same experience.
"We were ridiculously busy. Business has been really strong since lockdown ended and now with the school holidays and a huge amount of visitors coming from out of town, I think there's a sense of wanting to help Rotorua.
"I think a lot of it has come from a lot of money floating around, which has been refunded, which would've been spent these school holidays on overseas travel."
Hennessy echoed Hamlett's thoughts on Rotorua being ideally located to make the most of domestic tourism opportunities.
"The other great thing is, the Auckland Blues are playing so well and being Saturday night games the pub has just been packed with Aucklanders which is great.
"If things stay on this track, I'll be very happy, but I guess we'll find out over the next six weeks," he said.
Skyline Rotorua general manager Andrew Jensen said post-lockdown had been a challenging time for businesses but the school holidays provided some respite.
"It has been a challenging period for the team at Skyline since our reopening at level 2, with the need to adapt quickly to the new post-Covid environment. School holidays have been a positive period for Skyline with a great number of Kiwis supporting the push to support local, however, overall trading continues to be softer than previous years.
"Skyline Rotorua has always seen strong domestic support due to the nature of the experiences but, as to be expected, the impact of Covid on our international numbers has been and continues to be felt.
"Skyline continues to be very grateful for the support of New Zealanders and for this reason we are feeling largely positive about the long-term outlook for the industry both within Rotorua and New Zealand wide."
A National Perspective
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall was in Rotorua visiting local operators this week and told the Rotorua Daily Post there was still a lot of uncertainty about what the future might hold but the current appetite for domestic tourism was positive.
"It's a bit premature to say whether it's bouncing back in a sustainable way. At a national level, it's definitely tracking ahead of what we thought it would be and some regions are well ahead of where they were a year ago.
"For operators, it's a bit more of a mixed bag. Some operators are very excited, they're up against their expectations while others are still struggling."
England-Hall said the goal for Tourism New Zealand now was to encourage New Zealanders to plan a holiday in their own country "like it's a destination to go and travel to".
"What we see from a behavioural point of view is people tend to do things differently in their own country than they do when they go somewhere internationally. Say a bunch of Kiwis go overseas for a holiday, they usually do a lot of planning around where they'll stay, what they're going to do, what are the must-do experiences.
"In your own country, typically people think 'well it's home, it's not really a holiday'. We don't plan it, we book later, we tend to drive rather than fly and only go out to eat a couple of times during the week. We behave very differently at home.
"Our goal as Tourism New Zealand is to ask how we get New Zealanders to think about New Zealand as a place to go as an experience. Our campaign 'Do Something New, New Zealand' is all about that. If everyone does one more thing than they did last year, that makes a massive difference."
England-Hall said, in that sense, Rotorua was ideally set up to "grow the pie".
"Tourism doesn't really understand New Zealand very well. We understand our own area and we understand who comes, but we maybe don't understand the psychology of what makes people want to visit. They've probably not really thought about that before.
"What we want to do is get under the surface of that for the benefit of the industry. We want to understand that and we want to understand where those people are in New Zealand."
- Additional reporting Sandra Conchie