A cruise industry leader says tourist operators worried that short-stay visitors from ships are hurting business will have to adapt.

Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry said she was aware of complaints about the increasing numbers of overseas visitors on cruises, instead of land-based visitors, who stay for longer in areas such as the Bay of Islands where some operators are feeling the pinch.

"Ultimately this is consumer-driven so complaining about the way that customers have shifted the way they travel doesn't make your business any more viable.

"It's a bit like bricks and mortar retailers saying they wished nobody shopped online," Sherry said before a keynote speech to the Tourism Industry Association conference yesterday. "Once consumers shift their behaviour you've got to adjust your business."


The cruise industry is growing at more than 20 per cent a year as ships attract a broader range of passengers, bigger and better ships visit and New Zealand remains high on the must-do list for tourists.

Sherry said 20 per cent of the most satisfied passengers indicated they would return and this could include two weeks of land-based touring.

"Working together on the ground to make sure that people have a fantastic experience when they come off the ship is the best way to make sure they come back," she said. " ... that's the thing that people have got to keep on their minds rather than local infighting or infighting between regions."

Figures released by Cruise NZ show 208,000 passengers will visit this summer and spend $132 million on onshore excursions and visitor activities. Sherry said cruising was a "rolled gold opportunity for New Zealand".

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden said large numbers of travellers preferred cruises and New Zealand's tourism industry must embrace the opportunities the growth in this sector offered.