Local businesses and tour operators can look forward to a boost over the coming months as the Hawke's Bay kick off a record cruise season.
The arrival of Napier-regular MS Maasdam over the weekend started another record cruise season for Hawke's Bay.
Napier Port CEO Todd Dawson said that the port has a record 87 cruise ships scheduled to call this season, up from 70 last season.
"We'll be welcoming up to 135,000 cruise passengers to Napier between October and April, which is an increase of around 20 per cent on the passenger count last season," Dawson said.
"Our cruise industry continues to experience robust growth, and we're hitting new records year on year."
The 220m long MS Maasdam arrived at Napier Port on Saturday, carrying up to 1258 passengers and 580 crew, completing its first of four visits to Napier this season.
The 2019-2020 cruise season promises to be a major boost for the Hawke's Bay economy, with passengers and crew expected to spend a total of $32 million.
That is expected to be a boost on last season where cruise passengers spent $28,406,000 in Hawke's Bay in the year to June 2019, according to Statistics New Zealand
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Worldwide cruise tourism has grown in popularity over recent years, particularly the Southern Hemisphere routes, and Napier is set to continue to benefit as a gateway to the Hawke's Bay region for the growing number of cruise ships visiting New Zealand.
Hawke's Bay Tourism CEO Hamish Saxton said the significance of each ship's visit is such that they can be considered a visitor event for the region.
"A great many businesses throughout Hawke's Bay benefit from the dispersal of not only the passengers participating in tourism experiences, but also some of the crew whose on-shore activities often mirror those of locals - running errands in the city," Saxton said.
"There's also research suggesting as many as a quarter of passengers with positive on-shore experiences, like we consistently offer in Napier, will consider returning to the region as an independent traveller in the future."
Napier i-Site Manager Jane Libby is well placed to appreciate all the preparation and hard work that goes into each cruise ship visit.
"We have been busy getting ready for the start of the new cruise season, meeting and planning with tour and transport operators, retail outlets and other key stakeholders," Libby said.
"The cruise season in Napier is now a well-oiled machine, and we look forward to showcasing our beautiful region to this season's visitors."
Napier Port's capability and cruise manager Bruce Lochhead remarked that Napier has been regularly voted the best port of call in New Zealand by cruise ship passengers.
"We are always looking to improve the passenger experience at the port and this season we are excited to roll out a number of initiatives, including the introduction of a new cruise customer service team," Lochhead said.
"We also make a real point of working closely with our partners, including Hawke's Bay Tourism, Napier i-SITE Visitor Centre, tour operators and local businesses, so that together we can offer a high-quality end-to-end experience for those visiting our region via cruise ship."
The Napier Port 6 Wharf expansion project due to commence later this year will relieve some of the congestion at Napier Port which currently constrains its ability to service the growing demand for cruise ships.
But once completed, 6 Wharf will enable the port to handle two cruise ships simultaneously at the height of the season.