Increasing numbers of cruise ships visiting Tauranga have ensured the city once again recorded the second largest total spending by port in the country.
Statistics New Zealand figures revealed that Tauranga and Auckland had the largest total spending in the year to June 30, 2018, at $65.9 million and $131.4m respectively.
But there was a 1 per cent decrease in the number of cruise passengers who visited Tauranga last season, reducing from 153,735 in 2016/2017 to 152,509 in 2017/2018.
Some of that drop can be attributed to marked rises in the number of cruise visitors who visited Northland and Auckland ports.
There was also a 3 per cent decrease in cruise ship expenditure in Tauranga, from $67.9m in 2016/2017 to $65.9m in 2017/2018.
Tauranga was named one of the top five cruise destinations in Australasia earlier this year in the 2018 Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards.
Mount Mainstreet manager Ingrid Fleming said 110 cruise ships were coming to Tauranga in the 2018/2019 season, which was a significant difference from 83 last season.
"It means there is huge potential to grow the overall spending by our visitors," she said.
"We work hard to ensure our cruise passengers feel welcome. That includes our lovely group of Lioness volunteers, who greet the passengers as they come off ships, answering their questions and pointing them in the right direction."
The cruise season starts on October 5 and runs through to April 16 next year.
Fleming said she hoped planned events such as the annual Labour Weekend busking competition and Christmas festivities proved popular with cruise visitors.
"We want to ensure our cruise passengers have the best possible experience and if they do, it hopefully means they'll be willing to snap up a few items to take home with them."
Magazine Designer Clothing store manager Bronwyn Robinson said: "We're definitely getting a few more cruise ship passengers coming into our store than previous seasons.
"In preparation for this year's season, we're bringing in some new stock. That includes lots of linens, as we know our Australian visitors, in particular, really love beautiful linens.
"We also know lots of cruise ship passengers like to take something back home which is a unique and New Zealand-made," she said.
But one local retailer said it's "hard work" just encouraging some passengers to disembark to check out what's on offer in downtown Mount Maunganui.
Zohar Gallery owner Zohar Robinson said: "Most the passengers who do want to go ashore have already booked excursions to Rotorua or Hobbiton. Or they take the free shuttle into downtown Tauranga.
"I have been here 10 years. In my experience, most passengers chose to stay on their ship. Why wouldn't you when have paid to have all your needs catered for onboard."
But Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the reality was quite different.
"Despite some passengers heading to other parts of the region such as the 'global-branded' Rotorua and Hobbiton, more than 50 per cent chose to stay in Tauranga."
That considerably boosted the overall spending in the Bay, Dunne said.
"Of those who take excursions to Rotorua and Hobbiton, many of the tour operators are Tauranga locals who employ local people which benefits the local economy," she said.
Dunne said aside from Auckland, Tauranga was once again recorded the highest level of cruise ship spending in the country.
The Port of Tauranga was a "regional gateway port" which was a considerable advantage for Tauranga when it came to attracting more cruise ships and passengers to the city.
Tauranga also gets a "high-level of replenishment" from every cruise ship while in port.
"If people want more cruise ship passengers to stay in Tauranga then the community needs to create more attractions and experiences to keep them here," Dunne said.