Junior rugby league teams from across the country are set to get a taste of Eastern Bay of Plenty hospitality when they arrive for the upcoming Kiwi Junior Rugby League Festival.
The festival, from September 15-17, will see 33 teams hosted by marae throughout the district.
Nicola Burgess, events and tourism adviser for the Whakatane District Council, said the event offered a way to showcase the area's unique culture and hospitality.
"We are very proud to be supporting this event, which brings a different group of visitors to the region," she said.
"The festival gives young players the opportunity to travel, maybe for the first time, and experience something completely new, especially if they come from the bigger centres.
"It's very special, and something the kids will remember forever."
Global Games, the organisation behind the event, has joined forces with Haka Tours to bring the festival to Whakatane. The two organisations are also bringing the Junior Rugby Festival to Whakatane from October 7-8.
Global Games events director Tyrone Campbell said they wanted to highlight Whakatane as a hidden gem.
"It provides such an authentic cultural experience, which people love. And in turn, local marae and businesses in smaller outlying towns will see real benefits from competitors, their families and supporters visiting for both events."
Global Games is also looking to the future, with plans for expansion on an international level. Negotiations are under way to form a partnership for Europe's largest junior rugby event, the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival, which will become a sister festival to the New Zealand tournaments.
Global Games' relationships with Haka Tours in New Zealand and UK-based company My Tour mean more international teams will be attending future New Zealand events, and provide more opportunities for local teams to travel overseas.
The Junior Rugby League Festival will be held at Rugby Park in Whakatane.