Northland can expect another record number of cruise ships passengers - and associated spend - this coming season, with earnings set to shoot up by about 14 per cent after spending almost $21 million last season.
Figures released by Stats NZ show that the country had a record cruise ship season in the year to the end of June, with Northland seeing a 19 per cent increase in cruise ship passengers to the Bay of Islands and 29 per cent increase in spending.
Last season 20 cruise ships visited the Bay of Islands, carrying 122,989 passengers - a 19 per cent increase on the 103,525 who visited the previous season.
But when it came to spending while ashore here, those passengers spent an estimated $20,970,000 - a 29.8 per cent increase on the $16,157,000 spent by cruise ship passengers in Northland the previous season. The cruise industry is now worth $570 million a year to New Zealand - a 28 per cent increase on the previous year.
''We're getting more people coming and they are spending more while they are here. That's got to be good for the Bay of Islands,'' Kevin O'Sullivan, CEO of New Zealand Cruise Association said.
''And everybody loves the Bay of Islands. What's not to love about the place? All the feedback from the cruise companies is that they have a wonderful experience up there.
"The Bay gives an amazing cultural experience for the passengers too. The fact that they can disembark and go straight to Waitangi - the birthplace of the nation - is a big plus. It's got so much history and is regarded as an important cultural experience in New Zealand.''
O'Sullivan said the good news for Northland can only get better with predictions of a 14 per cent increase in passengers numbers across the country and a 28 per cent increase in what they are predicted to spend.
But it's not just the money from that cruise ship visit that is important, he said.
''Cruise ship passengers generally use their cruise as a bit of a taster. If they like it they will then come back, and the statistics show a lot of cruise ship passengers make return visits to spend more time, or they will come back on another cruise.''
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O'Sullivan said all the feedback on cruise ship visits to the Bay of Islands had been positive, with the cruise ship companies saying the ambassador programme, where people meet the cruise ship passengers off the boat at Waitangi, was providing a wonderful service that the passengers really appreciated.
The ambassador programme is run by the Paihia business group and Anika Whapshott, of Blah Blah Marketing, which runs the programme on behalf of the businesses, said their role is really valued by the passengers. This will be the seventh year in a row the service has run in the Bay.
''We are the smiley faces greeting them when they come ashore. We give them a short blurb about where they are, what they can do while they are here and how long it takes to get to the various places,'' Whapshott said.
''While many businesses support the ambassador programme we give unbiased advice and don't point the visitors to any specific business or activity, it's just the general information we give them. We can answer any questions they may have and just support them however we can.
''It's just about making things easier for them. Because we are a tender port (where passengers get to shore via tenders form the ship) passengers can queue up on the boat to get on the tenders, queue up on the wharf to go through customs then queue up waiting for the buses to take them into Paihia. So it's nice for them to have a happy, smiley face to greet them and have a bit of a laugh and joke with them. It's a very good service that's really appreciated.''
She said it was also exciting for the Bay's businesses to have the cruise ships, and their passengers, visit.
O'Sullivan said the statistics also show that the benefits of cruise are spread around the country, with Tauranga and Dunedin showing strong growth, as well as Auckland.
Nearly 322,000 cruise ship passengers visited New Zealand in the year ended June 2019, up 24 percent (62,000) from 2018.
Australian citizens' overall share of unique cruise passengers rebounded to 49 per cent in 2019, from 44 per cent in 2018 and 50 percent in 2017. United States citizens accounted for 20 per cent, New Zealand citizens 11 per cent, and United Kingdom citizens 6 per cent.
Collectively, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom have made up about three-quarters of all passengers during the 2015–19 period.
Auckland and Dunedin ports had the largest number of passengers. In the June 2019 year, Auckland received 239,000 passengers, up 13 percent (28,000), while Dunedin received 238,000, up 32 per cent (58,000). Tauranga recorded the largest increase in the number of passengers up 75,000 (49 per cent) to 227,000.