New Zealand received a record 168,000 cruise passengers and crew on 98 cruises last season, pumping $204 million into local economies.

Auckland was the biggest beneficiary during the 2007-2008 September to April season, bringing in $123.8 million from cruising, said Craig Harris, chairman of Cruise New Zealand and chief executive of McKay Shipping in Auckland.

Bay of Plenty attracted $17.7 million in cruise spending. Other beneficiaries were Canterbury with $16.8 million, Otago with $15.1 million, Wellington with $10.4 million and Southland with $7.1 million. Total direct spending for the 2007/2008 season was $204 million.

Harris said the industry’s rapid growth was putting pressure on facilities at some ports, particularly in Auckland.

“In the following seasons, based on port call bookings, there will be a 15 percent increase in passenger numbers.  This will put pressure on infrastructure and tourist services at many destinations, which are already facing a number of challenges,” Harris said.

Americans made up 39 per cent of international passengers in the 2007-2008 season and Australians 24 per cent. New Zealanders who fill winter cruises to the Pacific account for 19 percent of all passengers.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the cruise industry was a growing part of US-visitor arrivals to New Zealand, which stood at 216,493 in the year to June.

“Research shows that close to 70 percent of American visitors who come to New Zealand on a cruise want to return for a longer holiday,” Hickton said.