Cruise Sector

Cruise offers significant opportunities for New Zealand operators but it is a unique sector and there are a few things to keep in mind.

Step One: Does your product fit with the cruise sector?

Is your product unique or specific to a particular region in New Zealand?

Cruise passengers have very limited time ashore, with an average of eight hours to get to know a region. They tend to choose activities that are unique or iconic to that region. As a result, products such as Kiwi 360, which is unique to Tauranga, or the "one of a kind" Tranz Alpine rail journey, are popular. Tourism businesses keen to work with the cruise sector should consider and market whatever is unique or representative of their region.

Where does your product sit within the wider New Zealand tour offer?

Cruise passengers tend to choose to do a different activity at each New Zealand port and will not want to repeat an activity within the same voyage. Operators need to think about where their product sits within the wider New Zealand tour offer in order to gauge its potential.

Are you Qualmark certified?

While not obligatory, it can be helpful to apply for a Qualmark certification of your product. For example: the Port of Tauranga and Tourism Bay of Plenty have jointly made a decision to only support the sale of Qualmark-rated products to cruise passengers who are not on organised shore excursions.

Step Two: How best to market your product?

There are two options for marketing your product to cruise companies:

Option one: Working with Inbound Operators (IBOs)

IBOs supply cruise liners with shore excursions for their passengers and are always on the lookout for new and exciting products. Consider the following factors:

Are you export ready?

To be considered by an IBO, operators need to understand international distribution and have commission structures in place. See our checklist for operators looking to sell offshore.

Do you have an existing tourism product?

If the answer is yes, you are more likely to be contracted by an IBO as they are better able to gauge the experience, take note of feedback and decide on its suitability for the cruise sector. Tourism products that can be adapted to the specific requirements of cruise lines, such as tour length and transfer options, have a higher chance of success.

Can you cater to large numbers of visitors?

A ship to New Zealand carries on average 1,625 passengers. At such a volume, IBOs naturally steer towards tourism experiences that can move hundreds of visitors at a time.

Can you customise your product to the particular needs of cruise passengers?

Interested operators should bear in mind the specifications of an ideal cruise tour (e.g. time of day, age of passengers, demographics and size of group) so they can customise and deliver a product which fits with the cruise schedule and passenger needs.

What is the ideal tour?

To some extent every tour needs to be customised to each ship, as the passengers on board will be different. For example, the clientele on board the Orion is different to the one on board the Rhapsody of the Seas; Americans may be interested in New Zealand's farming and back country, whereas Australians find that too familiar to be of much interest.

Half-day tours have proven to be very popular with cruise passengers, with the other half of the day free to spend as they wish. A tour of around four hours made up of two venue stops, including morning or afternoon tea, is ideal. This also enables passengers to return to the ship for lunch and gives the tour operator the ability to run the same tour again in the afternoon.

Overall, the more popular tours tend to be those that take passengers to places which cannot be reached by public transport or walking, and those that offer a visit to more than one attraction. Exclusive experiences are also popular with cruise passengers. For example, Auckland Museum offer exclusive tours for cruise guests outside of their regular opening hours.

Prices charged on board are determined by the cruise line's head office and include many add-ons and considerations such as convenience (pick up and drop off at the wharf), peace of mind (guaranteed return to the ship on time or expenses-paid trip to meet the ship at the next port), insurance, quality assurance and a recourse to refunds and complaints.

Option two: Selling directly to cruise passengers

Passengers are increasingly seeking out tours sold online or at local i-SITE Visitor Centres.

Tourism businesses keen to sell products directly to cruise passengers should:

  • Update their website and ensure it is easily found by search engines.¬†

  • Foster good relationships with their local i-SITE, ensuring frontline staff have experienced the product and know enough about it, to sell it.

  • Update product availability on cruise ship days, so visitors can easily see if spaces are available.

  • Find out more about working with the i-SITE Network.

Join Cruise New Zealand

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