Napier and Hastings' economic growth outpaced Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for the year to June, according to the Infometrics' June 2016 Quarterly Economic Monitor.
It said Napier's GDP grew 4.7 per cent while Hastings District's grew 3.7 per cent.
The differences between Napier and Hastings were primarily attributed to more people moving to Napier, construction, vehicle registrations and tourism.
Infometrics economist Benje Patterson said Napier's greater exposure to tourism was a key driver.
Guest nights in Napier grew 11 per cent over the past year which "would have been a big contributor to the up-current".
He said while New Zealand international visitor numbers were climbing from record high to record high, visitors were staying longer and increasingly visiting in low and shoulder seasons.
"These two factors mean that visitors have plenty of time to get out and see places off the beaten track and during times of the year that would have historically been quiet."
"Our June 2016 Quarterly Economic Monitor showed exceptional growth in spending, traffic flows, guest nights, and headline GDP in most of the key tourism destinations in New Zealand. This growth was particularly apparent in smaller places outside the main urban centres where tourism represents a much larger share of the area's economy than in bigger and more diversified cities.
"On top of this tourism activity Hawke's Bay has had really good returns for its primary sector."
Fruit, wine and forestry prices were good and with the New Zealand dollar coming down from historic highs there was "more money in the back pocket" for the export-focused region.
Renewed interest in the Hawke's Bay housing market was also a factor.
"That is partly a spillover from what is happening in the rest of the country, where people are now beginning to seek out more affordable options that have good lifestyle proposition. It is also that locals have money in their back pocket, the labour market is going better and interest rates are quite low so people are spending on housing."
The poor dairy payout and a reduction to mining activity "took the shine out of things for some parts of the country" that had few other strings to their bow.
"Places with more diversified primary sectors got off lighter as they enjoyed an offsetting rise in returns for meat, fruit, vegetables, seafood, and other primary sector goods."
Other regions to outstrip the main centres with provisional figures were Nelson at 3.9 per cent, Tasman District at 5.1 per cent, Tauranga with 4 per cent and Hamilton at 3.6 per cent.
Auckland's GDP was 3.2 per cent, Wellington City's 2.1 per cent and Christchurch 0.8 per cent.
He said Auckland's strong economy was sustained over a prolonged period, pushed up by rising population, investment and service sector activity.
Wellington's improvement over the past few years was from a lull "following central government belt tightening".
The slowing of Christchurch GDP came after an average economic growth rate of 5 per cent over the three years to March 2015, thanks to post-earthquake re-building.
Business Hawke's Bay CEO Susan White said the report confirmed Hawke's Bay was in growth mode.
"While Napier's rate of growth has exceeded that of Hastings District this time, you'll find that last year it would be the other way around," she said.
Hawke's Bay was a premium primary-sector export-led economy "so there are many factors that can have an impact".
"With summer coming up with visitor growth and record harvests anticipated, the forecast is looking bright."