Tourism is one of New Zealand’s largest foreign exchange earners and Rotorua is one of the leading international tourism destinations in New Zealand

The tourism industry is Rotorua’s largest employer. The main economic contributors to the tourism industry are accommodation, bars, restaurants, leisure activities and retail sectors.

Over the last year Destination Rotorua has investigated the barriers and opportunities for tourism growth in Rotorua. The goal is to acheive a $1billion visitor spend by 2030. 

Destination Rotorua is exploring these opportunities in conjunction with Destination Rotorua, the Airport and key stakeholders to identify investments that will help define the attractiveness of Rotorua and get people staying longer and doing more.  

Crucial to this is attracting the high value visitors. This includes progressing actions to ensure we have world class facilities in the district. 

Rotorua tourism research and statistics are available for reference.

bUSINESS Profiles

‘Globe-Riding’ was invented in New Zealand by Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis with the first site in the world opening in Rotorua. Rotorua is still the only location in New Zealand to experience this activity. Having sold their first Rotorua globe-riding site, Andrew and Dwane set up their second Rotorua site in 2010 at ZORB Rotorua.

This new site includes the longest runs in the world, 250m long. The new ZORB sidewinder track is 350+ metres in length with six massive corners. The location of ZORB Rotorua is only 5km from the city centre with great views of the city, Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island. ZORB’s safety record is impeccable – quality products and a team of highly customer focussed individuals are key in achieving this success.

Andrew set up his tourism business in Rotorua as it made perfect business sense. “The high visitor numbers were a big attraction. We saw the tourism potential in adding to Rotorua’s adventure offering and its tourism innovation. We’ve got more developments planned (more ZORB runs and other activities) and on the ZORB Rotorua site we have access to many hectares of land for adventure tourism” says Andrew Akers, Director.


Work undertaken in the past year has enabled Destination Rotorua to develop project plans for several opportunities in the tourism sector.

Further Opportunity - Adventure & Nature Tourism

Rotorua has significant unrealised potential as an adventure sports and nature tourism Mecca.

Opportunities exist to grow ‘green’ tourism and adventure tourism by making use of Rotorua’s natural environment (bush, plantation forest, lakes, and rivers), targeting mountain bikers, backpackers, walkers, hunters and fishers.

Te Ara Ahi attracts active domestic and international visitors to Rotorua. In addition, the National Cycling Centre of Excellence designation will contribute to the city’s reputation as a premium mountain biking area.

Growth Opportunity - Conference Tourism

Opportunity exists for 5 star plus accommodation and services to support this target market. Rotorua’s marketing expenditure in Sydney will be a contributing factor to growing Rotorua’s Australian conference market. The Australian conference market provides an opportunity for high-end accommodation, international hotel chains, large-scale conferences and support services.

Rotorua also offers great business potential in the events, conference and incentive sectors with the natural attributes and facilities available within the district.

growth Opportunity - Spa & Wellness

A key growth area is beauty and wellness tourism. This could potentially expand into areas such as natural therapies, dermatology and cosmetic surgery. Together these have the potential for Rotorua to reinforce the ‘Spa capital of the Pacific’ status.

Destination Rotorua is undertaking a major project to identify successful spa complexes around the world to translate into investment opportunities.

Health and wellness has long been a strong driver of visitors to the region particularly to engage in geothermal water treatments for rehabilitation, treatment and relaxation. 

The health and wellness industry is estimated at US$1.9 trillion and with global mega-trends such as ageing population, changing demographics and exponential health costs this industry will continue to grow. The opportunity exists to develop specialist facilities particularly with strong cultural influences, to target wider market segments and establish Rotorua as a globally-recognised destination for health and wellness for local, New Zealand and international visitors.

The opportunities for Iwi are considerable through land ownership, resource access, capital investment, business ownership and job creation across many levels.

Outcomes Targeted
  • Successful models of a range of complexes from different countries
  • Identify local and visitor cultural success factors
  • Understand the aspirations of local landowners, businesses and investors
  • Establish the geothermal resource availability and potential
  • Development of a range of investment cases.
Growth Opportunity - Biking Strategy

Destination Rotorua is undertaking a project with local and regional stakeholders to develop a vision and strategic pathway for biking in Rotorua.

Rotorua has a very well established and internationally recognised network of cycle trails and is the home of Mountain Biking New Zealand Centre of Excellence.  Rotorua is centrally located with easy access from the Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Auckland. Cycling is a catalyst for a number of other economic drivers such as the spa and wellness sector, business attraction, corporate incentives and airport connections. 

International trends:

  • Cycling aligns to the ‘Green Tourism’ trend
  • The estimated European Union value is in excess of Euro44billion per annum
  • Many countries now have a cycle strategy with some experts expecting a three to four fold increase in cycle tourism over the next decade.

Aligned with worldwide trends, cycling has the potential to treble in value over the next five to 10 years.  Significant opportunities exist for a wide range of differentiated facilities and services. Rotorua continues to rank highly worldwide as a mountain biking destination.   

Outcomes Targeted

Comprehensive investor and information pack covering 10 year cycle tourism vision and strategy that will include:

  • Existing track network, new route potential and support facilities
  • Promotion and marketing
  • Iwi investment opportunities
  • Funding and necessary investments for achieving the vision
  • Management and governance structures necessary to achieve the vision
  • Events and key businesses to attract
  • Economic impact models
  • Spatial concept plan
  • Market validation.
Growth Opportunity - Golf Course

Destination Rotorua is facilitating conceptual studies with the landowners, Golf Clubs and Greg Turner Golf to explore how Rotorua Golf Club Arikikapakapa can become an international class destination and strong catalyst for tourism growth in the district.

The Arikikapakapa Golf Course has the potential to be a significant destination asset. Ownership decisions, the vision of Destination Rotorua and the moves of Tourism NZ to develop New Zealand’s international golf tourism market are aligned. 

Golf related international tourism contributes around $190 million per annum to the national economy and the potential is to double that impact over the next few years. 80% of this value falls outside the golf spending arena in tourism associated businesses such as airlines, accommodation, car rentals, food and beverage and other attractions. Golf visitors also tend to stay longer and deliver over twice the average tourist yield.

The process is well advanced in developing distinctive “NZ golf trails” and the significant private investments in the central North Island guarantee that the overall region will feature (most specifically around the likes of Kinloch, Waiariki Institute of Technology and Cape Kidnappers). 

Arikikapakapa has the potential to feature alongside these marquee courses and therefore for Rotorua to significantly benefit from this upcoming initiative. The natural geothermal features of the site are its most distinctive attribute.

The journey around the property needs to link the sporting endeavour with the site’s distinctive physical attributes and its Maori history. The opportunity exists to create a New Zealand golf course that unites, harmonises and celebrates these values.

Māori golf and culture has been exported to the world by champions like Michael Campbell and Phillip Tataurangi. This course could bring the golfing world to the Māori culture.

Outcomes Targeted
  • Fully engaged and involved landowners, club and wider community
  • Concept designs and costing established
  • Funding options explored
  • Integration with wider tourism initiatives and strategic neighbours (such as Te Puia and Waiariki Institute of Technology).
Facts & Figures

Tourism is one of New Zealand’s largest foreign exchange earners and Rotorua is one of the leading international tourism destinations in New Zealand. .
The tourism industry is Rotorua’s largest employer. The main economic contributors to the tourism industry are accommodation, bars, restaurants, leisure activities and retail sectors. Recent large-scale investment in existing tourism attractions includes development of The Big Splash at Rainbow Springs ($10 million), Rotorua Museum ($22 million), Skyline Rotorua ($20 million), Te Puia ($17.5 million) and Polynesian Spa ($4 million).

Several new attractions and activities have also opened, including the Mamaku Express rail cruising operation, OGO Rotorua, new hedge maze aMAZEme and Rotorua Canopy Tours. New Zealand’s National Cycling Centre of Excellence will have a presence in Rotorua and the ‘Te Ara Ahi’ is New Zealand’s only geothermal cycleway.

Access is available to Rotorua tourism research and statistics.


Rotorua has a well-developed strategic direction for tourism to ensure the continued growth and health of the sector and its contribution to local economic well-being. Integration and recognition of the role that tourism plays for the greater well-being of Rotorua is evidenced in the Rotorua Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy.

Destination Rotorua has an annual marketing budget and works with other stakeholders to promote Rotorua as a premier destination in which to visit, invest, work and live. Rotorua District Council continues to invest in infrastructure to further assist the attraction of visitors as well as to enhance residents’ standard of living.

Rotorua has developed New Zealand’s first sustainable tourism charter. The Rotorua Sustainable Charter works with all businesses, most predominantly tourism businesses, to implement initiatives that maximise profits whilst sustaining the environment they operate in.

For more imformation contact Destination Rotorua.