Tourism New Zealand has become the International Cruise Council Australasia’s latest associate member as cruising across the Tasman continues to boom.

Over the past five years, Australian cruise visitors to New Zealand have increased seven-fold, leaping from 6300 in 2006 to more than 46,600 in 2010.

The 2010 figures represent a 32 per cent increase from the 35,300 achieved in 2009.

“There is no better time for Tourism New Zealand to get involved with the ICCA,” Cruise Council General Manager Brett Jardine said.

“With so many of our member cruise lines sailing from Sydney to Auckland and making the scenic loop around the north and south islands, New Zealand has really come into its own as a cruise destination over the last few years.

Tourism New Zealand General Manager Marketing Communications Justin Watson said interest in cruising to New Zealand was growing at record levels and predicted a further 20 per cent surge in the number of international cruise passengers visiting the country in 2011-12.

“Cruise passengers identify New Zealand as providing a rich array of outstanding experiences, nestled in a backdrop of stunning landscapes. One of the major benefits for cruise visitors to New Zealand is the uniqueness of each region and variety of activity to enjoy at each port,’’ he said.

Mr Jardine said the Council welcomed support from one of the region’s leading tourism bodies.

“Tourism New Zealand’s associate membership will enable it to communicate with our leading cruise specialist agents and help us to continue to provide a high standard of agent education,” Mr Jardine said.

New Zealand attracted 10 per cent of Australian cruise passengers in 2010, making it the third most popular cruise destination behind the South Pacific and Australia, according to ICCA figures.

Meanwhile, New Zealand industry statistics show that Australian passengers now make up nearly half of all cruise visitors to New Zealand.