Tourists spent more than $1 billion in the coastal Bay of Plenty last year, a target that was not expected to be hit for another 12 years.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 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.
The majority of tourists to the coastal Bay of Plenty were made up of domestic visitors. However, international visitor spending had increased 9.5 per cent in 2017 when $190 million was spent compared to the $208 million spent in 2016.
Dunne said the cruise season was an integral part of the visitor economy in the Bay of Plenty.
"Tauranga Moana welcomes the second-highest cruise passenger spend in the country, second only to Auckland. The economic contribution by these passengers of $59m annually is a key component of our visitor economy."
Manager of Spongedrop Cakery in Mount Maunganui Jess Anderson said international visitors made up a large proportion of the business's customers.
"The majority of people we get coming into the store are from overseas. We do get a lot of Australian visitors who are really lovely," she said.
Anderson said the summer months had been a "complete blur" because of how busy the cafe had been.
"We get a lot of people coming off the cruise ships who are desperate for a good coffee. Some others take goodies back onto the ship with them," she said.
Co-owner of the Pepi Toot Beach Express Lesley Smith said the iconic train was popular with people who visited the area via cruise ships.
"It gives them a look around without having to walk too far. A lot of people who come off the ships can't walk too far so we can show them the scenery and give them a bit of history too," she said.
This summer was the fifth year the Pepi Toot had been running in Mount Maunganui, and Smith had seen its popularity grow.
"We get a lot of repeat customers who have taken a ride before and come and see us when they come into town again. We get a lot of Australians, English and Americans.
"The most common comment I always get is how clean and tidy Mount Maunganui is."
International visitor spending in the coastal Bay of Plenty in 2017
Australia - $64 million
United Kingdom - $31 million
US - $23 million
Rest of Europe - $23 million
Germany - $15 million
Rest of Asia - $15 million
Canada - $9 million
South and Central America - $8 million
China - $7 million
Republic of Korea - $6 million
Africa and the Middle East - $5 million
Rest of Oceania - $5 million
Japan - $3 million