The Bay of Plenty had a "stand-out" cruise ship season with an increase in both passenger numbers and passenger spending.

The Cruise Economic Impact Report of the 2015/2016 season released today revealed 164,300 passengers came to the Bay (up 10 per cent) and passenger spending was $39 million (up 12 per cent).

Tauranga's proximity to Rotorua and Hobbiton in Matamata made it a chosen destination for cruise lines - though Tourism BOP assured Tauranga was getting its share of the benefits.

Chief executive Kristin Dunne said in a press statement that statistics showed half of cruise ship passengers chose to stay local, either taking a tour or exploring independently.


"The one-day 'taste' of our area is so important because many cruisers return independently, and also spread their experience by word of mouth or social media to friends and family," Ms Dunne said.

The cruise ship season was one of the most visible parts of the tourism industry and a "perfect opportunity to showcase the unique attributes of the Bay to the world."

For the 2016/17 season Ms Dunne said Tourism BOP would work with Mount Main Street and Downtown Tauranga to make sure retailers, hospitality businesses were prepared to host visitors.

To manage the increase in capacity and ensure the season was successful Ms Dunne said a redevelopment of and upgrade of the i-PORT to include an official visitor centre was crucial.

"We are working closely with Tauranga City Council, the Port of Tauranga and local tour operators to ensure safe movement of passengers in our region and to manage the volumes of visitors arriving from a service perspective."

Ingrid Fleming, Mount Main Street manager, said she hoped the good cruise ship results would continue.

As there were five overnights in the coming season, Mount Mainstreet was looking at holding an event or doing something special on those nights.

She said before any concrete event was planned there needed to be discussion with Tourism BOP, the port and cruise liners.

The port would have to stay open longer, as would businesses in the Mount, and support from the cruise liners were crucial as well to make sure there was not more tempting entertainment on board the ship that night.

"We want to make lasting memories for all the passengers that come and enjoy the Mount's mainstreet. We need them to sail away having had a fantastic experience."

The largest and longest cruise ship to visit New Zealand was due to make its maiden voyage to the Bay as one of the 84 ships berthing at the Port of Tauranga during the next season.

Ovation of the Seas has a capacity of nearly 7000 passengers and crew and sits at nearly 350m long (three and a half rugby fields) and would be in Tauranga port on Boxing Day.

The 2016/17 season would see a total of 69 days of ship visits, including a double ship day on February 5 which was expected to bring in a combined total of 9500 visitors on the day.