Tauranga is bracing itself for a record cruise ship season, with at least 317,000 passengers and crew expected to inject $54 million into the Bay's economy.

''It will be the most significant jump we have seen,'' Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristine Dunne said.

Cruise ship arrivals at the Port of Tauranga next season were looking to reach about 114 ships - up more than a third on the 2017-18 season.

The latest boost to the six-month season starting in October was the announcement this week that Scandinavian-based Viking Cruises would enter the Australia-New Zealand cruise market.


Viking Orion will visit Tauranga six times over the next two years. With the Port of Tauranga's shipping schedule currently listing 111 cruise ship visits for the 2018-19 season, Orion's three visits would bring the number to 114 arrivals.

Dunne said that given that cruise ship schedules tended to jump around a bit at this time of the year; it looked like there would be at least a 30 per cent increase in the number of ship visits to Tauranga. A total of 83 ships visited last season.

''It is good news - we are delighted with this growth.''

New Zealand Cruise Association's estimates next season will generate 1224 cruise tourism jobs in the Bay - up 43 per cent on the 2016-17 season's 853 jobs when there were 86 port visits.

Dunne said the Asia-Pacific cruise market was getting bigger, with Tauranga a preferred port. ''The cruise lines love it.''

It was a resupply port that offered passengers great attractions for day tours. A lot of passengers were choosing to wander around Mount Maunganui or take the bus to Tauranga, she said.

''Fifty per cent of passengers stay in the local area.''

An estimated 223,000 cruise passengers and 94,000 crew will be calling at Tauranga next season, with a record nine ships opting for overnight stays.


Dunne said this had a lot to do with the ships being able to pull up alongside the wharves to resupply, and passengers wanting to do more day tours.

Mount Mainstreet Manager Ingrid Fleming said the extra ships were a reflection of cruising becoming more popular and more achievable for a lot of people.

''It will be great for the Mount. We have a world-class destination, and we want to share it with everyone.''

Another feature of the next cruise season would be the first visit to Tauranga by the 'magnificent'' new liner, Majestic Princess. Its first call on October 5 would be followed by a further 13 visits to the port.

Fleming said a Mainstreet retail promotion starting next month would offer the chance of winning a voyage aboard Majestic Princess.

And The Elms was gearing up for an influx of passengers from cruise ships, helped by the Tauranga City Council signing off an over-arching resource consent for the nationally significant historic site.

Elms Foundation acting chairman Stuart Crosby said the consent included parking for buses from cruise ships. Interest in The Elms was booming among international visitors because it had wonderful stories to tell.

Ian New of Kiwiana Gifts and Souvenirs at the Mount welcomed the upsurge in ship visits, saying it was an important part of the business. ''We see a noticeable increase in customers on ship days.''

But Artastic Print Place owner Mark Rundell said the business from cruise ship passengers was not as good as people were led to believe. It was not wealthy Americans but Australians spending all their savings on a cruise.

''People think it is fantastic [for retailers] but nope.''

Cafes and owners of businesses selling lightweight items like merino clothing benefited more than others. Judging by the number of passengers they saw carrying shopping bags, not many were taking goods back to the ship, he said.

Artastic was making only $100 to $200 per ship. Rundell said a lot of passengers came into the shop for a look, but courier costs of $250 to $450 to get artworks back home was a barrier to sales.

''We are not against cruise ships at all, they are great for the region, but I am sick and tired of hearing they are great for local businesses.''

Meanwhile, Tourism Bay of Plenty was hoping its application to the Government's Provincial Growth Fund would be successful. It was seeking $1 million as its contribution to the planned $5 million Visitor Information Centre in Coronation Park at the Mount.

''We should hear in the next two weeks. We desperately need infrastructure in that area - we need to keep everyone happy,'' Dunne said.

If the funding comes through, the new visitor centre would be built in time for the 2020-21 cruise season.

Bay of Plenty Cruise Ship Tourism 2018-19Port of Tauranga visits: 114 ships
Value added: $54 million
Employment: 1224 jobs
Double ship visit days: 18 days
Triple ship visit days: 3 days
Sources: NZ Cruise Association & Port of Tauranga