Cruise ship season kicks off in Timaru

The Europa arrives in Timaru in 2014.
John Bisset

The Europa arrives in Timaru in 2014.

Visits from three high-end cruise ships will act as a testing ground to determine Timaru's viability as a cruise ship destination.

The first of three cruise ships set to visit Timaru during the summer will arrive on Thursday, marking the return of Timaru to the cruise ship circuit after it missed out last season.

Their visits will provide a testing ground for Timaru's future in the industry, with retailers being urged to capitalise on the influx of visitors or risk missing out next time.

The Europa 2, featuring predominantly German passengers, will be followed by the Maasdam on January 23 and the Seabourne Encore on February 12.

Cruise New Zealand chairman Kevin O'Sullivan said he would be meeting with key stakeholders following the three visits to see how things had gone, and what needed to be improved.

"It's a really good experience to see what Timaru can do to attract more," he said.

He would also be going aboard the ships when they arrived in Auckland to talk to staff about how the visit had gone.

The ships scheduled to visit Timaru would be in the mid to high end range.

That would bring plenty of people prepared to spend big bucks into Timaru, O'Sullivan said.

However, with one of the ships scheduled to visit on a Sunday, retailers needed to weigh up whether they would attempt to capitalise on that and open for the day, he said.

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"It was an issue a few years ago, people just did their usual thing.

"They're only going to be able to see if it's worth it if they open."

There would be a lot of people wandering around, going into cafes, and seeking something unique that showed they had visited Timaru, he said.

There had been "some negative comments" in the past, and Timaru needed to put on a good show to secure future visits.

"It needs to be a good day out, otherwise there might be a push-back from guests."

Information distributed to retailers by Aoraki Development details the plans for passengers coming into Timaru.

Some would be going on tours organised in advance, while others would "take the opportunity to walk through town".

Mayor Damon Odey said the opportunity presented by cruise ships was "massive".

"There's not many towns that have a port five minutes walk from the CBD.

"It's good revenue for the port, and for us it's the opportunity of having new people coming to our district."

The Timaru District Council had been doing a lot of work to build connections with the industry, he said.

"It's a relatively complicated beast to understand, but we've got a good handle on that."

Ensuring retailers were able to make the most of the influx was a joint effort, he said.

"All we can do is make sure as many people as possible know they're coming, but the decision to open is up to individual businesses."

He believed many retailers in Timaru did make an effort to be inviting to cruise ship passengers when they were in town, with some putting up signs and greetings in other languages.

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said small business owners would have to weigh up whether it was worth opening outside of their normal hours when cruise ships were in port.

Experience Mid Canterbury chief executive Bruce Moffat was unable to be contacted on Tuesday.

What retailers are being told

Information distributed to retailers by Aoraki Development:

Europa 2 - 516 passengers

"Europa 2 is from a German-based cruise line and is visiting New Zealand for the first time this summer."

Maasdam - 1258 passengers

"The majority of the Maasdam passengers are North American and over 60-years-old. They will tend to be sophisticated, well-educated, well-heeled and traditional."

Seabourne Encore - 604 passengers

"A luxury cruise ship that is due to enter service in January 2017, and departs on its official maiden voyage from Singapore early in the month."

 - Stuff

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