A huge spike in cruise liner passengers coming to Hawke's Bay has pumped more than $20 million into the local economy - even with Napier Port having to turn away $3.5m-worth of spending due to size restrictions.
New cruise ship passenger expenditure data release by Statistics New Zealand shows Napier Port experienced a 15 percent rise in the number of unique passengers last season, with 101,781 passengers spending time in Hawke's Bay.
Only Bay of Islands experienced a bigger percentage rise in numbers in the whole of New Zealand.
Passenger expenditure in Hawke's Bay rose a whopping 41.5 per cent, compared to 2017, with passengers spending $23.1m over the summer.
"This result for Hawke's Bay is a huge lift for the region and we are very grateful for the number of shipping lines who visit us," Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said.
"The increase in passenger numbers this coming summer indicates that the region is performing strongly, our Port is delivering and the visitor experiences passengers are undertaking around the region is delivering as well.
"Cruise is an exceptionally important sector within our visitor economy, it's often the first taste of a destination that people have."
It was important the region continued to deliver the experiences cruise passengers were seeking, to stay competitive, she said.
Nationally, Auckland and Tauranga ports recorded the largest total spending. In the year ended June 2018, Auckland spend totalled $131.4 million up 11.2 per cent with Tauranga recording $65.9 million down 3.0 per cent.
Napier Port services manager Bruce Lochhead said the figures for Napier were "great news" for Hawke's Bay and confirmed a trend the port had been noticing for a while.
" We've been seeing increased demand from cruise lines for a Napier call. This is driven in part by industry growth, but also Napier's popularity as a place to stop, recharge, and enjoy good food, wine, scenery and architecture."
Lochhead said things would get even better this year.
"We're just about to head into Napier Port's busiest ever cruise season, with 72 confirmed cruise calls. We can handle this number through careful scheduling and a lot of dedicated work but we have reached capacity.
"We're currently turning away around five to 10 cruise ship requests each year, due to lack of space. By our estimates, that's an average loss to the Hawke's Bay economy of around $3.5m, every year - just on current demand alone."
Napier Port is seeking resource consent for new wharf that would help deal with increasing export volumes,and continued cruise sector growth.
" It will also help ease congestion around berths, which is already a pressure point, particularly over our summer peak period.
"One key challenge is that both cruise and container ships are growing in size. We're just able to accommodate 348 metre long cruise ships, such as Ovation of the Seas but next generation cruise ships will be 360 metres long, which is far larger than we can handle today.
"Our proposed wharf would be 350 metres long and approximately 34 metres wide. The wharf, and its additional mooring systems, could accommodate these next generation, 360 metre long cruise ships. It would future-proof growth, and benefit people and businesses right across the Hawke's Bay region."