Tourism Bay of Plenty has revealed an ambitious plan to boost the region's $530 million tourism industry and claim Northland's spot as one of the top five places to visit in New Zealand.

The challenge has been laughed at by Northland tourism experts, who say they "applaud" the Bay of Plenty for "trying to compete".

However, Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said the goal was achievable and the organisation was pushing ahead to snatch Northland's place by 2020.

Mr Arrowsmith said a growing cruise ship industry, the Bay's vibrant shopping and beach scene and reputation as an "intrepid" place to visit were already boosting tourist numbers, with the region experiencing the biggest growth in tourism in the country in January.


Tourism Bay of Plenty planned to attract more visitors to the Bay with online and social media marketing campaigns, including Mates Rates deals, increased TV and print advertising and by encouraging investment in new tourism ventures.

It would also champion the development of new conference and events facilities to allow the region to compete for larger national conferences.

"Our cruise ship industry is growing. We already have another seven more ships booked to come to Tauranga than this season and we have hit a point where 50 per cent of those people are staying in Tauranga rather than the majority taking off to Rotorua as they did in the past."

Mr Arrowsmith said Tourism Bay of Plenty was also focusing on domestic tourists.

"That is what we are striving towards," he said.

"It is healthy to have ambitions, targets and we believe we have special things to offer. Things that we can sell to make up the $80 million shortfall so we can take that spot."

Northland Tourism Development Group chairman Jeroen Jongejans told the Bay of Plenty Times he "applauded the thought" but believed the Bay would "struggle to steal" Northland's top five position.

"I applaud their optimism and wish them well but I think they will struggle because Northland has everything," he said.

Mr Arrowsmith said if they did manage to knock Northland off their perch it would be in an "ethical way".

"New Zealand has to work together but we do believe we have a lot to offer," he said.

"Tourism makes up 10 per cent of our region's GDP which is pretty substantial considering the strength of the port and horticultural and forestry industries here but we want an even bigger return for ratepayers investment and we are determined to bump that figure up."