The number of cruise ship passengers coming into Wellington may be on the rise, but most are Australians spending less than their counterparts from America or Europe used to.
People coming into the capital on luxury liner pleasure cruises have traditionally been mainly from further afield, but now most are from just across the ditch.
Cruising is in vogue in Australia, where New Zealand is marketed as an affordable cruise destination with P&O packages from $970 for 14 nights.
Land excursion organiser Shore Trips & Tours managing director Ian Holroyd said 10 years ago cruise visitors were mostly American or European, but now 70 per cent of visitors were from Australia where cruises were “heavily discounted”, so they did not tend to spend as much money as people from further afield.
“They can maybe just afford a discounted cruise, but they're not going to spend as much as Americans who see it as a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If you're just here on a $1000 ten-day cruise out of Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney, you may just walk around town or do some low-cost options. Cruise tourism is growing but the dollar spend, not as much.”
Flat Earth director Scott Courtney said he used to see more Americans, but now a lot of customers from cruises were Australian.
Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry said at the Tourism Industry Association Summit held in Wellington yesterday that a port's local businesses, including taxi drivers, cafe owners and tour operators, benefited from cruise-passenger spending.
“I'm aware of recent media reports that visitor numbers and tour bookings are down in some areas and there are those who attribute this to the increasing number of cruise visitors . . . Perhaps it has more to do with the general economic climate than the surge in cruising.”
Positively Wellington Tourism marketing general manager Sarah Meikle confirmed the balance had tipped towards Australian passengers who were more likely to return to their favourite spots from a cruise visit during a second trip at a later date.
“In the Australian market, it is very trendy to go on a cruise, and New Zealand is a very popular destination.”
Most cruise passengers in Wellington who take a tour engaged in Lord Of The Rings-themed activities.
Almost all the Flat Earth company tours booked on board by cruise passengers for excursions his company offered were Lord of the Rings-related.
“They are certainly popular. People are usually pretty excited about seeing the film locations,” Courtney said.
Walking tours such as Zest Food Tours or those focused on tasting locally brewed beers were popular; others visited architecural gems. Historic former cathedral Old St Paul's was a favourite.
Courtney said Wellington provided well for visiting cruise ship passengers. “It's an incredibly convenient city for cruise ship passengers; they definitely love coming to Wellington.”