Cruising Into Summer

Like every other sector, New Zealand's cruise industry has been affected by the global economic recession, with cruise lines based in the US, UK and Japan deploying their ships closer to home this summer.

For the upcoming season, 26 ships are scheduled to make 81 voyages around New Zealand, carrying a forecasted 105,000 passengers. Although this reflects a decline of around 10 per cent compared to last season, the season will be buoyed by Carnival Australia's expansion into New Zealand.

Aussie influx

The cruise sector has always been described as a supply-led industry. With Carnival Australia increasing their number of berths in New Zealand by just over 12,000, we will see an equivalent or greater increase in the number of passengers cruising around New Zealand, especially given cruise lines' main-aim of filling ships.

Carnival Australia's dominance in New Zealand also means there will be more Australian passengers. Australia has been gaining importance as a source market for cruise and can only get bigger as cruise lines focus on the market's potential for further growth. Of Australia's total population, 1.4 per cent already take cruise holidays, which compares well with America's 3.8 per cent.

Australian cruise passengers prefer to make their own onshore arrangements, rather than booking organised tours onboard ship. So the increase in Australian passengers probably means we will see more operator-direct transactions for activities this year. Tour operators should gear up for the season by making sure their website is up to date and easy to find online.

i-SITE Visitor Centres will also become more important, and tour operators should work closely with their local i-SITEs to maximise sales on cruise ship days. As Australians are very independent travellers, there will be more pressure on ground services as demand for shuttles and bus/rail services into the city increases.

Local value

Carnival Australia alone is expecting to contribute NZD80 million into New Zealand's economy this season, with their 158 port visits around the country. Regional councils should recognise the value cruise ships bring to their region and be more supportive of the cruise sector.

Their support can be demonstrated by providing complimentary shuttle services into the city, diverting traffic on cruise ship days to prevent traffic congestion, putting on entertainment at the wharf to welcome passengers as they disembark, providing personnel to greet and provide advice on what to see and do, and putting on more public buses when the cruise ship is in port.

By making it easy for passengers to get into the city and making them feel welcome and important, the council is bound to reap its returns from passenger expenditure and positive word of mouth, especially given the tight global cruise community that thrives on word of mouth.

For now, the New Zealand cruise community is focussed on improving cruise passengers' satisfaction levels in the country, as well as working through sector-wide issues such as the Marine Safety Charge, to make it easier for cruise lines to visit New Zealand.