New info centre to greet passengers

By Kiri Gillespie

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A new welcoming shelter packed with leading tourism operators has opened at Mount Maunganui.

The i-port has been set up for this year's cruise season and opened to visitors disembarking from cruise ships at the Salisbury Ave side of the Port of Tauranga.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Rhys Arrowsmith said Tauranga was the first place in New Zealand to have an i-port for tourists.

Other regional tourism agencies were expected to visit in coming weeks to see if they should emulate it.

"Last year we had a port-a-com. For the fifth biggest city, that does us an injustice. We needed to act and perform like a large city."

The forecasted spending by visitors in the region was $40.7 million, Mr Arrowsmith said.

"As an economic benefit for the region, it is a huge asset."

The centre is created out of shipping containers and is expected to have art from Timo Rannali on the rooftop to appeal to passengers before they disembark from their cruise ship.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said all providers represented were approved by Qualmark which set a high professional standard.

"This is much more professional than previous years. That's really important. When you are travelling, first impressions really matter," he said.

Qualmark is New Zealand's official quality assurance organisation.

Eighteen staff were hired to help run the i-port during the cruise season, by booking tours and helping passengers with information. Hundreds of pamphlets were also on offer, which is transportable and likely to be used an a mobile events centre when the cruise season ends.

Graeme Marshall, general manager for Port of Tauranga, said the facility was perfect for passengers who did not have pre-booked tours and often wandered around the Mount Maunganui area "not sure what to do".

"It's unique in New Zealand, that's the thing. It's a really unique facility. We are trying to be the best cruise destination in New Zealand and it means little things like this."

The i-port operates from 6am to 11am pending cruise ship arrival and departure and tides.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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