More cruise ships carrying 'high value' tourists wanted at Port Taranaki
One of New Zealand's least-visited cruise ship destinations is aiming to take a bigger bite out of the multi-million dollar market, but does not expect to see results for quite some time.
More than 250,000 cruise ship passengers visited New Zealand last summer, industry leaders Cruise NZ reported, but only 1700 of those stopped in New Plymouth.
But Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper has laid the groundwork to attract more tourists.
"The lead-in time for planning for vessel visits can be quite long," Roper said.
"For example, the largest cruise ship to visit here last season, the Artania, was confirmed almost three years before it arrived."
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The Artania was one of three cruises ships that visited New Plymouth last year and it brought 1200 visitors more than any previous year.
Port Taranaki has already invested in facilities to support the cruise ship industry, Roper said, such as the $12 million Kinaki "tractor tug", which will guide large cruise ships into dock.
The tug boat is expected to be in operation in April next year.
He also said ShoreTension units would help secure ships in rough seas, the port's 300 metre Blyde Wharf could accommodate most cruise ships, and the marine service teams were "proven in their ability to deliver a superior customer experience".
Roper made these efforts evident in a panel discussion from "emerging ports" at the Cruise New Zealand Conference on Tuesday.
The discussion closely follows Port Taranaki having become a full member of Cruise New Zealand - the industry body of the country's cruise sector.
"The cruise ship sector provides great potential for the Taranaki economy, particularly our local businesses and tour operators," Roper said.
Port Taranaki has partnered with Venture Taranaki to "proactively promote and market the unique points of difference" the region has to offer the cruise industry, Roper said.
A briefing document for industry contacts has been drafted and offers technical and location details, shore excursions, and the broader infrastructure of the port.
Some of the "products" highlighted include Mt Taranaki, the Govett-Brewester/Len Lye Centre, and Puke Ariki guided walks.
But Stuart Trundle, Venture Taranaki chief executive, agreed it would take time to see any results.
"This is particularly the case in the cruise sector, where routes and destinations can be locked in several years in advance of the actual visit, and a port's ability to attract ships depends on a range of factors beyond that destination's control."
However, as the country's more popular cruise destinations "hit challenges around capacity" from larger ships, Trundle said new destinations "offering an intimate experience for boutique ships will see increasing demand".
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said he "absolutely supports" the partnership, calling the cruise ship passengers "high value visitors".
The results back him up. Last year, cruise ship passengers brought in $447 million and that is expected to climb to $640 million this year, Cruise NZ reported.
He said these visitors would help grow the local economy, which would be particularly beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses and the shops within the central business district (CBD).
"If we can get them into town and show them a good time, then hopefully they will go home and tell their friends about us."
Holdom said he would like to see more tour guides bring visitors to outer towns "so the whole district gets to benefit".