Kiwis taking to cruising in record numbers, with local voyages on the up
Kiwis are taking to ocean cruises faster than almost any other nationality, with a 36 per cent leap in passenger numbers last year making it one of the world's fastest growing markets.
A record 90,184 New Zealanders took an ocean cruise in 2016, spurred by an increase in short, local itineraries, new research by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia shows.
Only China recorded a higher growth rate in percentage terms (of 89 per cent), while Australia, Germany and the UK and Ireland came in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.
CLIA Australasia chairman Steve Odell said the growing number of liners travelling to New Zealand and greater number of local ports that cater for them are behind the increase.
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"The growth rate is pretty staggering. It equates to a 24,000 passenger increase, which is the largest rise on record."
Kiwis are growing particularly fond of cruising in home territory, with passenger numbers for voyages in local waters up 177 per cent to 18,853, the research shows. This can largely be explained by the larger number of P&O cruise ships in New Zealand last year.
The South Pacific remains our favourite destination, however, attracting almost a third (32,164) of the nation's cruise passengers - almost twice as many as in 2015.
Australia has fallen in popularity as a destination for Kiwi cruisers, with just 6239 of us taking an ocean voyage there in 2016. This can be attributed to the larger number of cruises now leaving from New Zealand, according to the research.
Geo-political events in Europe were thought to be behind the lower number of Kiwis who took ocean cruises in the region last year, although it was still the third most popular destination, attracting 11,338 passengers.
Round-the-world voyages, South America and Asia are also luring more cruisers, with passenger numbers up by 1574 (169 per cent), 229 (54 per cent) and 1014 (27 per cent) respectively.
"The figures show that New Zealanders are increasingly enjoying cruising for its easy, relaxing and great value for money way to travel," CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said.
Kiwis are generally opting for shorter journeys, with almost half of passengers in 2016 taking cruises of between eight and 14 days. The increase in short, close-to-home journeys is thought to be behind the 142 per cent jump in popularity of one-to-four-day cruises. Overall, 88 per cent of Kiwis took a cruise of 14 days or less.
Proving cruises are no longer the sole domain of the grey hair brigade, the research found nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of Kiwi passengers in 2016 were under 40. Over sixty-one-year-olds still make up a large proportion (41 per cent) of passengers, however.
Katz said the wider age spectrum on cruises these days reflects the variety of voyages now on offer, with many liners catering for families or those looking for adventure.
"More than half of passengers are between 40 and 60 which should put to rest the misconception of cruising being for older people."
New Zealand ocean cruise passenger numbers have risen by an average 15 per cent per year over the past decade, with the local market doubling in five years, according to CLIA.
Katz said he remains confident that the market will reach its target 100,000 ocean passengers by 2020, but expects growth will be slower next year, partly because P&O hasn't increased its deployment here.
The organisation has called on the government and key stakeholders to ensure there is enough planning and investment in cruising infrastructure to support growth, highlighting the economic benefits to local communities. Cruise passengers spent an estimated $85 million in New Zealand last year, Katz said.
Odell said the government and Tourism New Zealand are doing a good job of factoring the cruise market into their long-term strategic planning but that the Aussies are some way behind.
"Sydney is key for wider Australia and also New Zealand as we have to have a wider base to operate from," he said. "But it's very positive on this side of the Tasman where the government is taking cruise tourism seriously."