More than $1 billion was spent in the coastal Bay of Plenty last year – a milestone originally not forecast for another 12 years.

According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment figures released yesterday, the region's tourism expenditure grew by $53 million over the year ending January 2018, taking it to $1.002 billion.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive officer Kristin Dunne said this growth brought many social and economic benefits to the region.

"It's an amazing achievement for the industry and reinforces the popularity of the Coastal Bay of Plenty as a growing tourist destination," she said.

"We are extremely proud that we are attracting tourism on this scale; however, we also need to be mindful of the long-term planning required to ensure that continued growth is sustainable into the future."


Spending by visitors had almost doubled over the last decade from $568 million in 2009.

This placed the coastal Bay of Plenty as New Zealand's seventh-most-popular tourist destination behind Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown, Waikato and Northland.

Tourism Bay of Plenty, through its Visitor Economy Strategy 2018-2028, forecasted the visitor economy would grow by more than 50 percent by 2028.

"Tourism will continue to grow in the region and it would be reckless to allow this growth without a considered management plan.

"This means working closely with local and regional authorities, iwi, communities and industry to ensure we grow tourism on our terms," Dunne said.

Tourism Bay of Plenty was seeking additional funding in the Tauranga City Council Long Term Plan to raise its current local authority funding to the national benchmark for similar-sized Regional Tourism Organisations.

Taking the right strategic approach is key to controlling tourism's environmental impacts and preserving the region's unique identity, Dunne said.