A 7 per cent drop in the number of cruise passengers into Tauranga last season is nothing to worry about, the city's tourism body says, and it expects visits to bounce back stronger than ever.

For the year ended June 2017, 12,097 fewer unique cruise passengers visited Tauranga compared to the year before, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing manager Kath Low said the organisation had noticed the drop but was not concerned by it.

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"It has altered slightly - there has been a decrease. It doesn't concern us at all and it's just the nature of cruise."

She said when looking at the schedule for the upcoming cruise season, Tauranga was forecast to have more than 100 ships and a "significantly larger" number of people arriving in the city.

"There are fluctuations from original scheduling and real time, but we are still thrilled with the number that is coming."

Another reason for the drop last financial year was there were more boutique, high-end cruise ships, she said. Bigger ships with more people would visit Tauranga this season.

Tourism Bay of Plenty was expecting about 165,000 cruise passengers by the end of this financial year, which would mean an increase of about 14,000 people year-on-year.

One of the tourism businesses welcoming that forecast is newcomer Escape Masters, which opened in downtown Tauranga in March and has not yet experienced a cruise season.

"It's a little bit of an unknown for us but looking at it, evidently it's very exciting," owner Philip Holland said.

He said escape games were relatively new to New Zealand and very new to Tauranga, but were well-known and popular overseas.

"It's particularly popular with - and a lot of the cruise ship people tend to be - the older-type retirees."

For that reason, Escape Masters Tauranga was about to launch a new product with cruise visitors in mind.

The interactive game would involve walking around central Tauranga and would educate players on the history of the city and its landmarks.

Holland said one of the reasons he wanted Escape Masters to be based in downtown Tauranga was the high tourist and cruise visitor foot traffic in the area.

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said he personally did not notice a drop in cruise visitors.

"If I've ever been down there it seems busier than ever and certainly last season there were times when we had two or three ships in at once," he said.

Brownless said the council was already doing a lot to market Tauranga as a cruise and tourism destination and he did not want to commit more ratepayer money to it.

"Perhaps the businesses that benefit from it directly could actually do something rather than the council. Those that directly benefit - it would be good to see them pitching together."

Sally Cooke, spokeswoman for Downtown Tauranga, said there had been an increase in the use of its cruise ship to city centre shuttle bus last financial year.

"So we're happy because we increased the share of tourists that we attracted to our city centre," she said.

Ingrid Fleming, Mount Mainstreet manager, said her organisation had not noticed much of a change in cruise visitor numbers.

She said the Mount always welcomed as many cruise passengers as possible and had a group of volunteers that met visitors as they came off the ships, answering their questions and pointing them in the right direction.

"They're there to help the passengers and give them the best experience possible."

Between 2015 and 2016 there was a 14 per cent rise in the number of unique cruise passengers to Tauranga - 20,105 more people.

And Tauranga was not alone when it came to the drop from 2016 to 2017; unique cruise passenger numbers were down 7 per cent across New Zealand.

In the year ended June 2017, 222,000 unique cruise ship passengers visited New Zealand.

About two-thirds came to Tauranga.


Cruise ship passenger numbers for Tauranga (for the year ended June)
2017 - 150,994
2016 - 163,091
2015 - 142,986
Source: Statistics New Zealand