Biking is one of the Rotorua area's many attractions.
Biking is one of the Rotorua area's many attractions. File

Invited to see Rotorua - again

REMEMBER screaming downhill on the luge, sliding down the black hole, or soaking in the mud at Polynesian Spa?

Well, the smell might still be there but much has changed in "Roto-vegas" since that family holiday all those years ago - and now the city's tourism marketers want an extra 50,000 of you to head down each year.

The new target has been set amid a dramatic revamp of what is now called Destination Rotorua Marketing, which also plans to boost its Asian and Australian markets.

"If you asked the average Aucklander who hasn't been here for 25 years about what they think of it, they'd just think mud pools and cultural shows," acting general manager Tania Bui said.

"You had the black hole, you had the thermal village and the buried village, and Polynesian Spa used to have the big concrete square pits you could get into. Now it's got a stunning full hydro therapy massage service."

"For the majority of New Zealanders, you come to Rotorua when you're 11 and you come back to Rotorua when you have kids and they're 11.

"But I wouldn't know anyone who when they made a repeat visit with the kids wasn't stunned when they saw what Rotorua has got to offer."

She believed many Aucklanders did not realise Rotorua boasted the largest collection of luxury and boutique lodges in New Zealand, she said.

"We've also got arguably the best mountain bike trails in the country, and mountain biking is the new golfing."

Ms Bui said Auckland was "low hanging fruit" for Rotorua's tourism, with about one million Aucklanders making a trip down each year.

The department's new strategy to lure more Aucklanders included staging a "Rotorua oasis" inside the No 1 Queen St Cafe and Bar during the Rugby World Cup.

Asked to describe the targeted Auckland tourist, she said: "I think the typical Auckland tourist isn't typical anymore.

"Yes, we are that great family place you can take your kids to, but now we've got that extreme trail element for your 30- to 49-year-old Aucklander who has decided that golf's a bit passive, or the 25- to 39-year-old female professional who wants to catch up with the girlfriends and have a great indulgent weekend without spending $1000 to get on the plane somewhere.

"Really, the key thing for us is to say, hey Auckland - you don't have to wait 25 years until you come back down, because all the Auckland people I've encouraged to come back down, their view of Rotorua is what it was like 30 years ago."

We asked Destination Rotorua Marketing to come up with the quintessential Rotorua weekend for an Auckland couple. Here's what they came up with.

FRIDAY NIGHT: Check into the Regent of Rotorua, the city's newest five-star glamour boutique hotel, and then pick from dinner options including Italian, Mexican or a steak grill in "Eat Street" - Rotorua's vibrant alfresco style cluster of cafes and restaurants.

SATURDAY: Drive out to Okere Falls cafe for a big breakfast and then head off for a mountain bike adventure through Whakarewarewa Forest. In the afternoon, experience white water rafting on the Kaituna River, and top it off with a soak at Polynesian Spa. For dinner, tuck into Morroccan fare at Abaracadabra Cafe and Bar.

SUNDAY: Start the day with breakfast at Third Place Cafe overlooking Lake Rotorua, and then take a stroll to the lakefront for a scenic helicopter flight taking in Mt Tarawera, the Steaming Cliffs and the hot lakes of Waimangu Volcanic Valley. On your way back to Auckland, make a quick detour to Offroad NZ, strap a helmet on and finish off the weekend with a try at Raceline Karting.

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