Timaru has the scope to attract more cruise ships, Cruise New Zealand CE says

Cruise ship Maasdam arriving at the port of Timaru early on January 23.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Cruise ship Maasdam arriving at the port of Timaru early on January 23.

Timaru could attract up to five times as many as cruise ships a year to the area after a successful season, Cruise New Zealand chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan says.

Three high-end cruise ships visited Timaru this summer, with some of the 2378 passengers taking to South Canterbury's shores.

O'Sullivan said if Stewart Island had the capacity to deal with a peak of 16 ships per year, Timaru certainly had the scope to do the same.

His statement has been welcomed by different South Canterbury organisations, who said they would be happy to promote the region to attract more cruise liners.

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O'Sullivan planned to speak with the Timaru District Council and Aoraki Development to discuss cruise ship feedback from this season next month.

Despite an unfortunate incident when a cruise ship collided with a cement carrier, the cruise visits had been successful with plenty of positive comments from passengers, he said.

"From a destination that had a few issues, Timaru has upped its game."

Timaru had no scheduled cruise liner stops during the 2015/2016 season, but O'Sullivan said it was now a "cruise friendly destination".

Friendly locals and plenty of opportunities for different sight-seeing made a big difference, he said.

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PrimePort Timaru chief executive Phil Melhopt said the business was always keen to grow.

It would be willing to consider any plans to increase marketing to attract more cruise would be assessed on their merits, Melhopt said.

He had received positive feedback from the visits with passengers seen out spending.

Alps 2 Ocean Limited owner Wayne Keenan said there was no reason why Timaru could not attract more cruise ships.

Timaru would be able to cope easily with additional cruise ships and "South Canterbury has a lot to offer", Keenan said.

Attracting more cruise ships would make it easier for tour operators to set up and target tours as it would give them business certainty, he said.

Although Timaru would benefit from setting up a local highlights tour, which focused on what Timaru had to offer and kept people around the township, Keenan said.

This might encourage shops to stay open for longer or different hours, which had been an issue for some tourists, he said.

Aoraki Development operations manager Di Hay said the organisation was always happy to help promote the region, especially if more cruise ships planned to stop in Timaru.

"We're now working on getting feedback from the cruise industry and tourism operators involved to find out what we can do in the future to cater for cruise ships visiting here," Hay said.

The organisation had assisted with visits, working alongside the Information Centre and PrimePort Timaru staff, by preparing flyers for businesses and information for visitors, she said.

A three stop tour bus, organised by Aoraki Development, gave passengers a hop-on-hop-off bus option from the information centre to some of the sites around Timaru.

It was unknown how much money had been brought in by the cruise ships, but it had boosted the economy, Hay said.

"Part of what we see is the reputational value to Timaru that if people come and visit on a cruise ship here, they may come and visit as independent travellers in the future."

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said it was fantastic there had been such positive feedback from passengers.

Businesses had experienced steady customers during the cruise ship stops from passengers and ship staff, Smith said.

Timaru District Mayor Damon Odey was unable to be reached for comment.

 - Stuff

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