Cruise ship spending boom

By James Fuller

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The cruise ship industry will pump $40.7 million into the Bay of Plenty economy this summer and is supporting 732 local jobs.

The news comes as the two largest ships based in Australasia visited Tauranga this week.

In successive days, The Voyager of the Seas and the Celebrity Solstice brought a total 6350 people into port.

While some Bay businesses reported few economic benefits from visiting cruise ships, Tourism Bay of Plenty's Rhys Arrowsmith said the industry was of increasing importance regionally.

The cruise ship industry supported more than 700 jobs because of the amount of money spent during port calls. This money flowed through the retail, tourism, transport, hospitality and accommodation sectors, he said.

"We've gone from 16 ships to 83 in six years and the trend is for continued growth.

"This year we will have 15 double ship days, where two ships come into port on the same day.

Next year we are already getting bookings coming in for triple ship days."

Mr Arrowsmith said that, on triple ship days the ships would "stretch for a kilometre down the port wharf".

He said although full bookings for next year's cruise ship season had not come through yet, the indications were good.

The bookings for the remainder of the 2012/13 season meant, at maximum capacity, 219,000 passengers and crew would visit Tauranga.

The average cruise ship passenger spend is calculated at US$100 ($121) per port call, and crew at US$90.

Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris predicted a continued increase in passengers.

Gavin Smith, chairman of the International Cruise Council, Australia and New Zealand, said interest in Australia and New Zealand as cruise ship destinations had strengthened.

"There are 38 cruise ships coming to New Zealand, 130 cruises on those ships, 755 port calls and they are visiting 14 ports around the country. They bring a lot of business.

"The number of ship calls is roughly similar but it's the size of the ships which is changing. We are seeing larger ships coming more often.

"The biggest change is the seasonal deployment of ships by new players in the Australasian market," said Mr Smith.

The demographic of cruise ship passengers was also changing with it no longer being the preserve of the older generations.

The average age of the Australian and New Zealand passengers on Royal Caribbean Cruises is around 50 and dropping, said Mr Smith. For P&O; cruises that average age was even lower at about 42.

The shorter 10-12 night cruises were popular with younger people whereas the longer duration world cruises were still the domain of older passengers.

Mr Smith, who is also managing director for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Australia and NZ, said megaliners like Voyager and Solstice made a significant impact.

"Voyager alone is making seven calls [to Tauranga this season] and that's putting 21,000 people into port," he said. "Between 50 and 60 per cent of those will get away on tours, so that's 1600 to 1800 people loading onto buses and being taken on trips."

Tourism Industry Association New Zealand chief executive Martin Snedden said it was critical ports around New Zealand had the infrastructure to accommodate both the growing numbers of cruise passengers and larger ships.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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