The biggest cruise ship to dock in Tauranga has sailed after a one-day visit, leaving an economic wake of up to half a million dollars in the Bay of Plenty.
Weighing in at 137,270 tonnes and with capacity for 3800 passengers, the Voyager of the Seas sailed into port on the high tide yesterday morning and departed 12 hours later.
Thousands of passengers and crew disembarked through the new i-port facility at the Port of Tauranga on their way to tours and activities in the Bay or a stroll through Mount Maunganui.
Bay of Plenty Tourism general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said cruise passengers on average spent US$100 ($121) per port call, and crew US$90.
Multiplied by the 3136 passengers and 1100 crew on board, the economic impact of the Voyager of the Seas' one-day visit would be up to $500,000.
"But for Tauranga we probably get a larger share of that," Mr Arrowsmith said, "simply because of the product range we have. Smaller ports have a smaller product range."
Variables that determined how much passengers spent included how long the ship had been at sea before docking, passenger nationality, and whether it was early or late in the season.
"The early season stuff is people that have bought early bird deals and that's reflected in the yield that comes off that ship."
Most cruise-ship passengers into Tauranga were Australian, and about 35 per cent were American or Canadian.
While unable to provide exact spend figures, Mr Arrowsmith said the i-port had seen its largest level of bookings so far this year, with many for Tauranga-based activities.
"We've probably got two-and-a-half times the amount of local tours than we did last year. A lot of people have been to Rotorua before, so there's more interest in exploring the Tauranga area."
About a third of passengers visited Rotorua, while 10 per cent stayed on board and the rest were "free independent travellers," Mr Arrowsmith said.
Cruise-ship arrivals had increased from 16 to 84 in six years, and contributed $41 million to the local economy last year.
Mount Mainstreet manager Leanne Brown said Mount retailers hoped to get some of the benefit of the Voyager's visit but the real economic impact would be in the long term.
"Those people are going to go home and tell people how wonderful Mount Maunganui is and what a good time they had here, and they're probably going to tell five people each, so the long-term spin-off effect will be that."
Ms Brown said there was no point getting upset that many passengers spent time and money in Rotorua because it was a major drawcard in getting ships to dock at Tauranga.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby agreed but said Tauranga should do more to provide attractions. "We're a little bit light. We need to keep developing new attractions and the council has a role to play in that, in granting consents."
Check back tomorrow for an impressive photo gallery of the Voyager of the Sea