Businesses hope for boom as Tauranga welcomes first cruise ship of summer

On Saturday morning Tauranga's port received a much-welcomed visitor - its first cruise ship of the summer.

The ship's 3500 passengers were welcomed by local businesses, many of which have been desperate for patrons to recover the losses made during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

She arrived early in the darkness of morning but there was no missing the Majestic Princess as she berthed in Tauranga's port. The 3500 passengers onboard came with the best of intentions.

"We're gonna walk around Mt Maunganui, have some meat pies," one passenger said.

Another passenger said: "First time we come to New Zealand, so very excited."

It's been a long time between drinks for the cruise ship industry and local retailers and the hope is they'll spend some money.

"This season we're expecting circa of $80 million - so it's a massive injection, particularly for an industry like ours that has had lockdowns with COVID and obviously with border closures," Bay of Plenty's general manager of tourism Oscar Nathan told Newshub.

The Majestic Princess is the first of over 100 cruise ships expected in the region over the summer period. With more than 175,000 people in total, things are looking up for retailers. 

"There's a real vibe to the town which is really nice to have back in," one business owner said.

Another business owner said: "We've been busy since we opened this morning."

Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell was happy to see business was booming in the region.

"The businesses up and down the mount and in the wider Tauranga and Bay of Plenty region  [are] really happy to see these people back."

Mount Maunganui was abuzz with its new visitors eager for a slice of Kiwi paradise. 

"We've been trying to do this for years but COVID kept us away - so we finally made it," one passenger told Newshub.