Visitors to Tauranga and the coastal Bay of Plenty spent $773 million in the past year - an increase of $86 million from the previous year.
The figures reflect spending by both domestic and international visitors in the year to March 2015, collated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The coastal Bay of Plenty region, stretching from Waihi Beach to Ohope, was the sixth-highest earning region in the country. Rotorua was 11th with a $593 million spend. The 12.5 per cent increase showed Tourism Bay of Plenty was doing a great job, chairman Ian Smith said.
"We have a huge domestic market here. While for a long time we had that retirement village reputation, Tauranga is increasingly being recognised for more than that.
Mr Smith, who is also the owner of Waihi Beach Top 10 and Beachaven Kiwi Holiday Park, said Tauranga City Council's events strategy and the low New Zealand dollar had played a big part in the growth.
Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said the results were a significant step towards the region's goal of being a billion-dollar industry by 2030. "Our job to market this beautiful region is made all the easier by collective effort to welcome visitors and show them all the Bay of Plenty has to offer."
The figures did not take cruise passenger spending into account, estimated to be a further $40 million to $50 million per year.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty president Dean Teddy said Tauranga was being seen as more of a tourist destination than in the past. He expected tourism would soon beat out agriculture as New Zealand's biggest income earner.
White Island Tours marketing manager Patrick O'Sullivan said increased visitor spending was being seen across the country. There had been a resurgence in visitors from traditional markets such as North America, United Kingdom and Europe that had been impacted by the Global Financial Crisis.
"All in all, it's shaping up to be a very positive summer. It's been a positive year so far, Ihope it keeps going."
Waimarino marketing manager Sam Cameron said the good weather in the past year probably had an impact on growth. Another factor was visitors looking for somewhere "off the beaten track".
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the growth showed the importance of tourism as a key economic driver for the area that had grown consistently overtime.
Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson said the increase in tourism spend was a reflection of the many strong tourism offerings available.