New $60m luxury hot springs and spa facility opens in Rotorua

A $60 million luxury hot springs and spa facility in Rotorua has officially opened its doors, and it's projected to boost the regional tourism economy.

Named Wai Ariki, the centre offers a range of experiences - combining the region's healing geothermal waters with the centuries-old legacy of Ngāti Whakaue culture and healing practices.

It's a luxury oasis to relax, rest, unwind and heal. Pure bliss.

"We have an iwi-owned and iwi-lead facility that is world-class. Second to none," said Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa general manager Rania Sears.

Situated on Rotorua's lakefront, Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa has taken six years to build and cost $60 million - $52 million from the Government, of which $38 million is a loan.

"Any visitor or any manuhiri that we invite and welcome through those doors can expect a journey that is multi-sensory, infused with our culture," Sears said.

That can be experienced through its two different spa areas which feature numerous geo-thermal mineral-rich pools, both hot and cold and even a herbal one. There are various saunas, a mud room, a mist facility, showers, baths and spaces for massage and facials.

"We built it, we own it. We have an external manager running it. 

"One of the conditions for that was they need to look to employ as many Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa people as they could," Pukeroa Oruawhata Group deputy chairman David Tapsell said.

Tourism in Rotorua is on the rebound with international visitor spending at 85 percent of pre-COVID levels.

"We are pretty confident that this summer we will certainly see international visitor numbers back above pre-COVID or very close to pre-COVID. All the conversations we've had with local operators, they are really positive about forward bookings," said RotoruaNZ chief executive Andrew Wilson.

"Obviously with China now starting to come back on stream, it's a really big market for us and I think we are starting to see the initial kind of visitors from that key market return."

Rotorua New Zealand is calling this an anchor facility for tourism and one that's expected to pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy over 12 to 18 months.

"This is an incredible facility that we believe in time will become the iconic place to go in terms of spa and wellness," Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell said.

"You really have to come through those doors and allow us to manaaki you, welcome you as our manuhiri and experience this for yourself," Sears added.

It's an experience you won't find anywhere else in the world.