Rotorua sees 'unprecedented support' over long weekend after COVID-19 troubles - Mayor

Rotorua's mayor is thanking Kiwis for backing the tourism hotspot over the long Queen's Birthday weekend, saying there was "unprecedented support".

As with many iconic locations around New Zealand, Rotorua has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has decimated the tourism sector due to the need for border closures and the lockdown in March and April.

With Kiwis back to being able to travel around the country under alert level 2, many headed to Rotorua for the three-day weekend. Air New Zealand helped out with additional flights to the centre.

Mayor Steve Chadwick told Newshub the town was pumping. 

"It's been phenomenal, actually, better than our expectations. A long weekend is always good for Rotorua. We missed out on Easter, but this one has been a boomer," she said.

"Unprecedented support from New Zealand. Thank you, all of you, for coming."

Chadwick said there were "queues outside everywhere" on Sunday, with the weather also on the town's side. Among those benefiting were Canopy Tours, which operates treetop ziplines, the town's treewalks, Secret Spot Hot Spas, Zorb, as well as the restaurants, cafes and bars.

She said one event owner said Sunday was the best day in four years.

"There is something for everybody here," Chadwick said.

"New Zealanders have risen to the challenge to get out and explore, both our backyards and places they haven't visited before."

She said the success seen over the weekend might encourage other more hesitant businesses to open up. 

"It will inspire others that were more tentative and didn't open this weekend that people are looking for a variety of experiences here and they are prepared to do it. That's been wonderful, very heart-warming for us all," she said.

"The tap was turned off. We are slowly turning it on."

Chadwick hoped to see more flights to Rotorua sustained and was looking forward to when the trans-Tasman bubble opens up.

"We are also saying open up Queenstown - Rotorua direct. That'd help get some of the people from the North Island to Queenstown and back again.

"One long weekend doesn't really make a summer, so book now for the July holidays and we look forward to hosting you here."