Northland saw a record cruise ship season, with passengers spending more than $14 million in the region - almost double the amount they spent the previous season.

Figures released yesterday from Stats NZ show an increase in the number of cruise voyages and passengers into New Zealand boosted cruise ship expenditure to $434.0 million in the year ended June 2018. Total cruise expenditure was up 18.3 per cent ($67.1 million) following a 9.9 per cent increase in the June 2017 year.

The Bay of Islands, the only place cruise ships call into Northland - although Whangārei has already got one ship lined up to come in 2021 - saw 103,525 cruise ship passengers during the season, a rise of 14,722 on the previous season, Stats NZ said. And they spent $14,079,000 during the season, almost double the $7,835,000 the previous season.

Last season saw three cruise ships carrying more than 6000 passengers, calling in to the Bay of Islands in one day, setting a new record for Northland's booming tourist industry.


The first to drop anchor off Russell's Tapeka Pt on December 20 was the Maasdam with more than 1200 passengers on board. It was followed by the five-star Caledonian Sky with 140 passengers, and finally the 4180-passenger Ovation of the Seas which, at 348m, is the biggest cruise ship to ever visit New Zealand.

However, some Bay retailers are querying the figures, saying they didn't see any major increase in income.

Robyn Stent, chairwoman of the Paihia Business Association and owner of The Cabbage Tree, said she and other retailers she had spoken to had not seen anything like that sort of increase. In fact some had not seen any increased spending from cruise ship passengers at all last season.

''We were expecting a bumper season, with more ships scheduled to come, but some of the ships couldn't disembark passengers because of the weather while others didn't stop because of the weather,'' she said.

''I've not really seen any increase (from the cruise ships) on last year. I would have been delighted if that was the case, but not for me and others.''

Stent said a record 2018-19 cruise ship season is expected, with even more passengers set to disembark in the bay, so she was hopeful the tourist town would benefit far more this coming season.

But Northland's representative on Tourism NZ and industry leader, Jeroen Jongejans, said the figures were great news for the whole region and, while some retailers may not have seen much of an increase, many did. He said the numbers were credible coming from Stats NZ.

Jongejans said the fact the spending went up at a far higher rate than the increase in passenger numbers showed that visitors were spending more money in the region.


''And that's what we want. It seem that cruise ship passengers are spreading their money further than one place and are taking tours and bus trips to other parts of Northland and those areas will be benefiting from the extra spend too,'' he said.

''Many cruise ship passengers come back after their initial visit to spend more time in the places they enjoyed visiting so we'll also be getting a lot of return visits from those people.''