The Early History of the Rotorua Tourism Industry

Rotorua is the tourism Mecca of New Zealand, with the city and its residents having boasted a world class and ever evolving tourism industry over the last two centuries. But the local tourism industry has had many ups and downs over its lifetime, all of which have shaped the city into the destination it is today.

The 1880’s onwards

The pink and white silica terraces in the thermal Rotorua region had become known as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, and even today are still known as New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction.

Intrepid nineteenth century tourists traveled the enormous three month journey from Europe to New Zealand by ship just to witness the famed Pink and White Terraces. However, their fame was short lived; in 1886 the Pink and White Terraces were tragically destroyed when Mt. Tarawera erupted, devastating most of the surrounding landscape, and killing more than 150 people.

With the destruction of the 8th wonder of the world, Rotorua’s blossoming tourism industry was thought to be over before it began. But the tragic eruption which destroyed the Pink and White terraces also created the worlds youngest geothermal Eco-system and attraction, now known as the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

After the eruption, tourists and immigrants alike were still willing to travel to New Zealand to experience not only the geothermal activity but also the unique Maori culture only found in New Zealand. The Whakarewarewa Thermal Village became one of the most frequented attractions in Rotorua due to its distinctive Maori village the the famous Pohutu Geyser.

The early 20th century

During this time many visitors claimed that the mineral hot pools in the area had healed and even cured many illnesses, such as arthritis. The New Zealand government caught on to this opportunity and financed the creation of the the Rotorua Bath House, known today as the Rotorua Museum. This was a significant event as it was the New Zealand Government’s very first of many major investment into the New Zealand tourism industry.

The luxurious geothermal spa was opened in 1908 to offer therapeutic treatments to visitors from all over the world.

Unfortunately Rotorua’s tourism industry was threatened again when world war one was declared in 1914 which caused the halt of all international tourism. The Bath house was decommissioned and became a hospital to rehabilitate returning soldiers before becoming Tudor Towers and the center of the Rotorua night life in the 60’s.

These events are responsible for the creation of the Rotorua we know today. Stay tuned for next month’s blog on the modern history of Rotoruas Tourism Industry…