More people are choosing to ditch air travel and jump on a cruise ship, which is turning out to be good news for the Bay of Plenty economy. More than 225,000 passengers on 114 cruise ships visited Tauranga shores during the 2018/2019 season and more ships are expected in the coming years. Reporter Caroline Fleming looked into the season just ended and where the benefits will likely fall in the future.
Bay of Plenty's economy looks set to reap the benefits of a rise in high-spend cruise ship passengers expected to flood Tauranga city.
Tourism Bay of Plenty is forecasting even more cruise ships and passengers with cash-lined pockets will visit the city and as a result, the region in the next few years.
During the 2018/19 season, Tauranga welcomed more than 225,000 passengers aboard 114 cruise ships. The season ended in April and the number of cruise ship visits was up 33 compared to the year before, translating to 75,000 more people. Almost 40,000 more crew also passed through than in the previous season.
In this time, visitors to the Bay of Plenty spent an estimated $91 million compared to $65m the previous year.
Tourism experts predict these visits and associated spending will only grow over the next three years.
Already, 110 cruise ships with 205,205 passengers are expected to dock in Tauranga in 2021. In 2022, 117 ships and 216,896 passengers are expected and 120 ships and 223,184 in 2023.
Tourism Bay of Plenty's Kath Low said although fewer ships would visit next season, there would be a higher yield of visitor spend.
Low said the passengers over the coming seasons were within a high spend bracket and
would be beneficial to the Bay of Plenty economy.
Consumer marketing manager at Destination Rotorua Tom Worsp said cruise ship passengers were a significant contributor to Rotorua's visitor economy.
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Worsp said the impact of this went beyond the cruise season, as cruise passengers had a high propensity for return visits to New Zealand.
Shore Trips and Tours operations manager Nigel Spence said with the cruise ship market booming in Tauranga, their business was experiencing about 20 per cent in growth per year.
About half of the tours went to Rotorua as tourists had a huge interest in the city, with about 15 per cent staying local in Tauranga. The remainder often chose Matamata's Hobbiton, he said.
Spence said the tours would make sure to stop at Tauranga food places and stores to try to filter back into local businesses. The tour company was also focusing on finding tour opportunities in Te Puke and Maketū.
"Everywhere we take people they spend money, which is great for the Bay of Plenty economy."
It is estimated about half of all cruise ship passengers independently explore Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, meaning they don't book tours and choose to stay local.
Mount Surf Shop owner Matt Saunders said he noticed more customers in his shop when a cruise ship was in town and that some ship passengers would spend noticeably more than others.
On Mount Maunganui's main strip, The Bach cafe owner Colleen Heath said the rise in cruise ship passengers definitely made a difference to business. However, she did find a large number booked tours out of town.
The 2019/2020 cruise ship season was expected to start around the beginning of October 2019 and wrap up in April 2020.