Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Busy summer expected for tourism in the Bay of Plenty

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Insignia was the final cruise ship of last season. There are 83 ships headed for the Port of Tauranga between now and mid-April. Photo/George Novak
Insignia was the final cruise ship of last season. There are 83 ships headed for the Port of Tauranga between now and mid-April. Photo/George Novak

Visitor numbers are rapidly increasing in the Bay of Plenty and the tourism sector is preparing for its busiest summer yet.

Statistics New Zealand data shows Bay of Plenty guest nights were up 10.5 per cent this September from last year to 264,000.

The region also experienced guest night increases throughout the winter months. Guest nights were up 25.5 per cent in June on last year to 225,000. In July they increased 7.8 per cent to 256,000. In August they rose 15.3 per cent to 225,000.

Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kath Low said the off-peak season was the best it had been with an average monthly spend for June to August of nearly $60 million per month.

She attributed the busy month to an increase in quality events including the Winter Carnival.

"It was a real community event that brought everyone together and into the heart of the city."

Tourism Bay of Plenty also put the successful period down to the overall growth of the region.

"New residents have brought with them new business opportunities and, in turn, are creating diverse and unique offerings for our residents and guests.

"We're known for our abundance of natural attractions, but we're working hard to create a well-rounded picture of what the region can offer across a number of sectors, including events, experiences, hospitality and retail."

Ms Low said summer was traditionally the coastal Bay of Plenty's busiest period.

The coming summer was set to be the busiest yet, particularly because the cruise season was expected to be a stand-out.

Eighty-three ships were due to arrive at the Port of Tauranga between now and mid-April, with nearly 70 days of ship visits planned, several overnight stays and a double ship day, which would bring in nearly 10,000 visitors.

The region had also increased its number of drawcard events in early 2017, which would attract national and international guest of all ages.

They included the sold-out Bay Dreams festival, the Beast of a Feast craft beer event, Black Caps games at Bay Oval, the Classic Flyers Airshow, the NZ All-Stars Bob Marley tribute concert and the return of the Winery Tour to Wharepai Domain.

Ms Low said the Bay experienced a record high of $115 million visitor spend in January. With the spend every year increasing at an exponential rate, she was confident 2017 would be the region's best year yet.

"The success of the season is built largely on the dedication and passion of our operators to make our region a welcoming destination, and we're proud to work alongside them to achieve our shared goal of becoming a billion-dollar tourism industry."

Statistics New Zealand said international visitors continued to boost guest-night numbers in September, particularly for motels and hotels.

National guest nights for September 2016 were 6.4 per cent higher than in September 2015.

Business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said more than two-thirds of the rise in guest nights was from foreign visitors.

For September, compared with September 2015, international guest nights were up 12.4 per cent and domestic guest nights were up 3 per cent.

North Island guest nights were up 6.6 per cent, and South Island guest nights were up 6 per cent.

For the year ended September, national guest nights were up 6.2 per cent from the September 2015 year.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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