Tributes are flowing in for Rotorua tourism legend and pioneer of Maori tourism Doug Tamaki.

Mr Tamaki died yesterday in Tauranga Hospital after suffering a major heart attack at his home in Mt Maunganui on Thursday.

He was 56 years old.

An innovative and inspiring tourism operator, Doug, with his brother Mike, developed and operated Tamaki Maori Village near Rotorua.

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The attraction has won numerous awards in the past 27 years and remains New Zealand's most awarded cultural tourism attraction.

His brother Mike said the family were still coming to terms with Doug's sudden death.

"It's a terrible shock, it's just surreal, I just expect him to give me a call and catch up for coffee. It's just mind numbing, but I think the reality will kick in during the service."

Apart from being a great family man and friend, Mike said he and his brother had a great love for motorcycling.

"We've been riding motorcycles before we had licences. We started when we were about 10 or 11 on the uncle's farm and we used to flog his farm bike when he went milking and thrash the guts out of it.

"Our love of the bikes grew from there. In the 70s no one could afford the Harleys and we all rode Triumphs.

"We were always a close family, the three brothers in particular, we always spent our holidays together."

Friend and Te Puia sales and marketing manager Kiri Atkinson-Crean said she had lost not just a business associate, but a great friend.

"I worked with [Doug] and Mike for just over nine years.

"I remember Doug for his capacity for the loudest laugh, sometimes at inappropriate times, but he was one of the most generous people that I know.

"He was a really good friend as much as a workmate," Ms Atkinson-Crean said.

Mountain Bike Rotorua and Multi-Day Adventures co-owner Tak Mutu, who with his brother Tu have built up two successful tourism businesses in Rotorua, said Doug would be sorely missed.

"The Tamaki brothers, they are leaders in tourism.

"They employ locals and have introduced thousands to the Maori culture.

"How shocked was I to see the news on my newsfeed . . . I was taken aback [by Doug's death].

"He was an awesome face for business. He will be sorely missed, not just by his family and the social side, but for his business acumen as well."

The general manager of Destination Rotorua, Oscar Nathan, who worked for Doug and Mike for a few years, said Doug was a friend as well a former boss and mentor.

"Having the privilege to work with the boys at the height of Tamaki village, got to know them really well and you'd be hard pressed to find someone with so much positivity and energy," Mr Nathan said.

"Anything that needed getting done, he was always there.

"I think many people from staff, past and present, and those that will work in the business in the future, will miss out on the magic that was Doug.

"They were both mentors to me, as well as mates, and I looked up to them when I came into the industry."

The co-owner of Kaitiaki Adventures, Jason Wright, said Doug was a pioneer in the tourism industry.

"He was an amazing entrepreneur and will leave a massive void in the industry.

"He paved the way and opened many doors for a lot of Maori operators, not just for Tamaki village.

"Above all that, he was a wonderful person and great role model and family man, he always had time for everyone," Mr Wright said.

Doug Tamaki is survived by his parents, Duke and Margaret, wife Katie, children Laila, Ethan, Taiwa and Tawera, his grandson, Awatea, brothers Mike and Brian, and sisters Caroline and Tania.

His body will be lying at his home in Mt Maunganui until his funeral service on Tuesday.

The funeral will be held at Classic Flyers Aviation Museum, Jean Batten Rd, Tauranga at 11am.

A funeral procession will drive back through Mt Maunganui before his burial at Tauranga Cemetery on Pyes Pa Rd.

On Friday from 3pm, a memorial service for Mr Tamaki in Rotorua will focus on his life in tourism. The venue is yet to be confirmed.

Doug Tamaki
- 23/09/1960 - 25/02/2017
- Co-founder of Tamaki Maori Village, New Zealand's most awarded cultural tourism attraction
- Funeral at Classic Flyers Aviation Museum, Jean Batten Rd, Tauranga, 11am Tuesday
- Renowned tourism leader and innovator
- Family man, friend and keen motorcyclist