Miles Johnson and Greg Davidson both have businesses that rely on tourism.

One has been operating for two months, the other for more than 50 years. Both are excited about where the sector is heading in the Bay of Plenty.

Early this morning those two men, along with several other business owners, politicians and city leaders, members of the tourism industry and local iwi, gathered outside a brand new visitor centre on Tauranga's waterfront.

The sun was shining as kaumātua Tamati Tata blessed Tauranga's new i-SITE – now located at 103 The Strand – the latest link in New Zealand's country-wide official visitor information network.

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The site has moved a couple of hundred metres from its former spot on Willow St.

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Johnson owns Day Trippers, a new e-bike cycle trail group tours business based in Tauranga. It started a couple of months ago.

He was mingling with fellow tourism operators at the official i-SITE opening today and said the tourism sector in the Bay of Plenty had "untapped potential".

"It's a big leap starting up a business to offer into that market, but we've got huge potential," Johnson said.

He was happy with the new location of the i-SITE.

"It's amazing down here, much better than where they were. Better profile and you can look out at our beautiful bay out the front door."

Miles Johnson owns Day Trippers, a new tourism venture in Tauranga that offers e-bike cycle trail group tours. Photo / Katie Cox
Miles Johnson owns Day Trippers, a new tourism venture in Tauranga that offers e-bike cycle trail group tours. Photo / Katie Cox

Davidson, who has a few more years under his belt, agreed – on both fronts. He owns Cosy Corner Holiday Park in Mount Maunganui.

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Asked about the new Tauranga CBD i-SITE location, he said: "I think it's good being on the waterfront, where you can see what the city has got to offer, rather than tucked away behind all the other buildings."

Davidson said he has always been excited about the potential of Bay of Plenty tourism and where it could go next.

"We've been in the business for over 50 years and it's gone from strength to strength."

He said it will be even better once the new visitor information centre and cruise gateway has opened at the Mount. Te Tomokanga (The Archway), the Tauranga Cruise Gateway and Welcome Hub, is scheduled to open in Coronation Park, Mount Maunganui during the 2020/21 cruise season.

"Just need a few more major tourism things to bring the people into the city."

Business owners, politicians and city leaders, members of the tourism industry and local iwi were at the event.
Business owners, politicians and city leaders, members of the tourism industry and local iwi were at the event.

Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell and Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor Garry Webber were at the event.

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Powell said a short speech. He said the new i-SITE location was "really, really exciting".

"We've got cruise ships coming out of our ears, this season particularly, and that's only going to grow. And the relationship between the i-SITE here and at the Mount is going to be really important to bring us all together."

He said a downtown area anywhere in the world should be the heart and soul of a city.

"And this is not right now, by the way, but it should be," Powell said.

"It should be our biggest economic value driver."

He said the council was going to work hard to deliver on the promises made, to create a downtown environment "which is all about people".

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Powell said the current CBD environment was going to change, "it has to change".

(front, l-r) Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber, Tourism Bay of Plenty director Laurissa Cooney, Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell and kaumātua Tamati Tata, at the i-SITE opening.
(front, l-r) Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber, Tourism Bay of Plenty director Laurissa Cooney, Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell and kaumātua Tamati Tata, at the i-SITE opening.

Laurissa Cooney, director/chair of Tourism Bay of Plenty, said the new i-SITE on The Strand would complement the future i-SITE cruise and visitor hub at the Mount.

"For us, this site represents a manifestation of significant research over the past couple of years, on our journey into destination management."

She said Tourism Bay of Plenty had chosen the new site on The Strand because of its location, which will be more appealing to visitors.

They have a four-year lease and will be paying less rent than they were on Willow St.

The new site is flanked on either side by a busy backpackers, restaurants and bars, and Tourism Bay of Plenty's offices are just upstairs.

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Cooney said there was also some uncertainty about the future of the building the former i-SITE was in.

Tourism Bay of Plenty has a communications plan in place to inform tourists of the new location and is liaising with key stakeholders, including the bus companies, to make sure they are aware of the move. There will also be changes to public signage.