Watching the first mega waka of a cruise ship sail into the sunset last week was worth waiting for, but for some, the size of the numbers visiting here outweighs the size of these magnificent floating hotels.
Has the cash cow of cruise ships calling into the safe harbour of Tauranga reached its plimsoll line?
This is a question worth asking while we still have the unspoilt beauty of our own back yards for all of us – not just the visitors - to enjoy.
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While many are rubbing their hands together and putting a pretty penny in their pockets, others outside of the tourism industry are asking some tough questions of DoC and local authorities, who safeguard our golden goose, and this next 2018-2019 cruise ship season the golden goose will be calling in 113 times - compared with 83 last year.
I guess it depends on what side of the plank you are walking when trying to find an answer to how many is too many for firstly, the existing infrastructure ( toilets, walking tracks, public amenities etc) and secondly, the patience and understanding of the locals.
Last year, 3.7 million tourists visited Aotearoa New Zealand and visitor numbers are projected to reach 5.1m by 2024. It was only a couple of passports ago when I was involved in Maori tourism we celebrated the arrival of the one millionth visitor in a calendar year, and even back then we had concerns about what environmental footprint these visitors would leave behind.
Back in those days Tamaki Tours were king of the kainga in Vegas, Waitomo Caves were glowing brightly and Kiwifruit country was growing faster than a coach full of foreign visitors, on a five-day whistle stop tour.
There was a magic ingredient to the Tamaki Brothers that still today other operators in the "visitor experience" have not included into the must-have skills when employing staff to manage and market their product. It's what I call the Billy & Barry X factor.
Billy T James and Barry Crump for all of their strengths and weaknesses were master storytellers as was the late great how great you were Sir Howard Morrison. Surely, this is a craft that could be and should be taught in tertiary institutions catering to tourism.
If we are to look after the golden goose - and hold on to the untamed beauty of our back yard - then perhaps the way to do this is to make people the priority as much as the place.
When it comes to courting the overseas visitors nothing beats a great yarn told by a colourful character. There are 1100 marae in Aotearoa full of storytellers who already know how to manaaki (look after) their manuhere (visitors).
The golden rule for sustainable tourism and making it a memorable experience for the manuhere is very much the same rule as a preparing a kai for a marae experience. Never leave the hangi down too long. When this happens, no one gets a decent kai.
For my two bobs worth of tourism knowledge ensuring the ethos of Manaakitanga is observed is paramount. To do this will hold us all - inside and outside the tourism tent - in good stead when the next 1000 ships arrive over the next decade. The tourism industry needs to protect the clean and green golden goose egg of one of the last pockets of pristine beauty on the planet.
Kai and korero go hand in hand as do storytelling and sustainable cruise ship arrivals to Tauranga.
The challenge for the players in the local tourism industry will be for our local communities to be kept inside the tourism tent, and not have their back yards plundered by 100-plus cruise ships all wanting a piece of the Bay of Plenty pie.
Locals will get fed up by outsiders feasting on their back yard - without paying for the privilege.
As will those in charge of looking after parks, walks, sacred maunga and marae.
Offering a concession is a great way to look after locals as proven by Bay Venues and the Mount hot pools. This is a winner and others could follow suit.
When it comes to a local marae experience, we need to make sure our marae are benefiting, not just the operators bringing in the busloads. Surely, a 10 per cent surcharge for marae is a fair koha when considering how much the cruise ship passenger is paying for the on shore experience.
If it costs $159 to visit Hobbiton and $173 to experience Maori culture in Whakawerawera or $349 for a package to do both, then it makes sense to market a local attraction 30 minutes from the port - instead of the punter paying big bucks to sit on a bus for most of the day.
All aboard for a happy and healthy cruise ship season - in a bay that has plenty for everyone.
Tommy Kapai Wilson is a local writer and best selling author. He first started working for the Bay of Plenty Times as a paperboy in 1966 and has been a columnist for 15 years. Tommy is currently the executive director of Te Tuinga Whānau, a social service agency committed to the needs of our community.