With a record number of cruise liners booked to visit Napier Port this summer, Hawke's Bay can expect an influx of visitors equivalent to the region's entire population.
Napier Port confirmed that it will handle 72 cruise ships this summer, bringing in as many as 175,000 visitors.
Napier Port's port services manager Bruce Lochhead said not only was that a record number of ships but it also meant a record number of passengers.
"The next cruise season opens at Labour Weekend and it's set to break records. We have 72 confirmed bookings from cruise liners, which is an all-time high and a 26 per cent increase on the number of cruise calls last season."
"Depending on passenger bookings, we could see up to 125,000 passengers and another 50,000 crew visit Hawke's Bay over the season."
That was "great news" for the region's tourism industry and for local businesses.
Royal Caribbean's large liner Ovation of the Seas, which can carry nearly 5000 passengers at a time, is booked in for half-a-dozen visits to Napier.
In addition, the Majestic Princess is booked for a maiden call as the first ship of the season over the Labour Day weekend.
At 330 metres long – just shorter than the Ovation of the Seas, port staff have been training in a simulator in the Netherlands as part of preparations for the first of five visits.
"The Majestic Princess can host up to 3560 passengers and 1346 crew. It's booked in for five calls this season, which means it could bring more than 24,000 people into Hawke's Bay," said Lochhead.
"We're excited to welcome another big liner, the Majestic Princess, to Napier Port for the first time this season.
"Hawke's Bay is really cementing itself as a destination, and cruise lines are seeing growing passenger demand for a stop in Napier," Lochhead said.
"It's a strong reflection on what we offer as a region, the work being done behind the scenes in our tourism sector, and the efforts of our local tourism businesses."
Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the record visits showed how the region's standing as a tourist destination continued to grow.
"Hawke's Bay has been working with cruise lines and their New Zealand based in-bound operators for well over 10 years.
"Napier and the whole region delivers some of the highest scores from visitor satisfaction surveys conducted by the cruise lines – that's really why they keep coming back – the passengers tell them they love it," she said.
"Napier Port does an amazing job, alongside the Art Deco Trust to welcome passengers port side, and we have the i-Site set up to showcase a number of tourism experiences as well."
Tourism Hawke's Bay works to keep inbound tour companies updated on new products for cruise passengers, adding that reps often visited well in advance of the season to meet potential businesses.
"The cruise industry is worth around $20m to Hawke's Bay and is an increasingly popular way for people to see a destination – its often the first look, then many passengers return for a longer holiday because they like what they saw."
Dundas added that plans were still being finalised on what would welcome cruise ship visitors but a "warm Deco welcome" would likely be prepared once again.
"There will be transport to suit the numbers so all will be catered for."