Missing the boat this cruise season

George Gardner

Tourist operators up and down the country will be rubbing their hands with glee, but Timaru appears to have missed the boat.

New Zealand's cruise sector is expecting a record season in 2015-16, with passenger numbers forecast to jump 33 per cent to 267,800.  The country's economy is expected to receive an injection of $543 million.

Great news for some regions, but not for South Canterbury.

There are no cruise liners scheduled to stop over in Timaru for the remainder of this year or during peak cruise season in January to March 2016.

Last year, four cruise ships visited Timaru during the season.

So why are we missing out?

In the past, Aoraki Development, Business and Tourism (ADBT) have played a big role in bringing cruise ships to Timaru. But with none coming this year, have its efforts been enough?

What has the Timaru District Council done to tap into this market?

 On Monday, ADBT chief executive Wendy Smith claimed Timaru needed to have the infrastructure to cope with a large amount of vessels.

But according to Cruise New Zealand's Kevin O'Sullivan, infrastructure was only an issue for the larger cruise ships and did not stop smaller ships from visiting Timaru.

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O'Sullivan said it came down to providing good quality products for cruise ship passengers.

In order for cruise liners to make money, a variety of good quality excursions need to be offered.

O'Sullivan said Timaru was in no way "forgotten about", it simply was not reaching the standard needed to be competitive in the cruise ship industry.

High end cruise ships, carrying high end passengers, wanted high end products.

 O'Sullivan suggested Timaru needed to play to its strengths of being a friendly, small port city, with easily accessible amenities. As Timaru was located halfway between Port Chalmers and Akaroa, it needed to offer something unique in order for cruise ships to stop.

There is no denying some passengers only want to go to Mt Cook for the day, but what about those who don't?  What is being offered for those who simply want to stretch their legs, shop and eat?  

O'Sullivan said Timaru will get three cruise ships, which have not visited before, in the 2016/17 cruise season. Let's hope there is somedhthing special planned for them.

 - Stuff

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