People say that one of the best things about a cruise is arriving in a new city just as the sun is rising. I can imagine few things more stunning than arriving in Auckland by ship as the sun starts to pick out the highlights of the city, harbour and surrounding hills.

It is a pity that after such a splendid introduction to Auckland, cruise ship passengers are brought down to reality by having to disembark using facilities that are makeshift and unwelcoming.

We can do something about this by developing Queens Wharf into a modern, efficient and welcoming terminal.

Cruise ship passengers' expectations are increasing as the industry matures and grows. Auckland and the country as a whole stand to lose millions of dollars if we do not develop a facility in keeping with rising expectations as well as rising passenger numbers.

Auckland is expecting 60 cruise ship visits this season and 71 next season. February is the busiest month. Seven cruise ships will visit Auckland this week alone.

Research done by the Auckland Regional Council, Government and Auckland City Council shows that, on average, each cruise ship passenger spends between $200 and $300 in Auckland each day they are here. This research also shows that if passengers travel outside of Auckland, they contribute double this to the wider New Zealand economy.

That is backed up by government research showing the cruise ship industry contributed $117 million to GDP during the 2007-2008 season. In other words, cruise ship passengers tend to be wealthy and not afraid to spend money in the cities that they visit. What's more, their numbers are increasing.

But we cannot expect to just do nothing and continue to clip the rather large cruise ship passenger ticket. We must offer these visitors to Auckland and New Zealand a facility that is both practical and welcoming.

Developing a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf is a must - it is the best location for such a facility, giving easy access to Queen St and the High St shopping area by foot, as well as the rest of the city and region via chartered or public transport.

We have to get the design for Queens Wharf right - but from what I have seen, we are close. I would like to see Auckland business get behind what the ARC and Government are trying to do with Queens Wharf, as the benefits to Auckland and New Zealand's economy are considerable.

We cannot afford to do nothing on Queens Wharf and just keep on debating.

* Michael Barnett is Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO and deputy chairman of the Auckland Regional Council.