Dollar threat to cruises

By John Cousins

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New Zealand's high exchange rate against the US dollar could see the number of cruise ships calling at Tauranga next season level out.

A leading cruise ship commentator, Doug Colaco of ISS-McKay, is not expecting to see growth in the industry for 2013-14.

While he said it was still early days, his prediction was for a holding pattern based on current bookings and the unfavourable exchange rate for passengers heading Down Under.

The "steady as she goes" outlook by ISS-McKay's cruise manager came as the 2012-13 season ended on Sunday with the departure of the Oosterdam - five months and 84 ships after the season opened.

Mr Colaco expected a few smaller luxury and expeditionary-type ships to be added to the 80 cruise ships already booked to call at the Port of Tauranga next season.

The biggest change was that the season would be two months longer, starting with the Sea Princess on October 12 and ending with Dawn Princess on May 13 next year.

The other brake on growth was that most New Zealand ports had reached their capacity to take extra cruise ships, with Tauranga and Auckland the only ports capable of taking three cruise ships at a time.

Mr Colaco said if the other ports did not have the capacity, then it did not add up commercially to bring more ships to New Zealand.

Unless there was a big improvement in the economies of the main cruise ship markets, he expected a gradual rather than steep increase.

"I see a holding pattern but not a decline. There might be a slight increase."

The big difference between the season just finished and the 2011-12 season was the number of larger ships. At maximum capacity, the larger ships brought in an additional 36,000 passengers and crew, to reach a total of 220,000 for the season.

Mr Colaco said Tauranga was an important port for the major cruise lines. It ranked a notch higher on the international scale of customer satisfaction than other New Zealand destinations, which always ranked highly anyway.

"That is always a good sign."

However, his concern was the higher exchange rate with the US dollar, which exacerbated the increase in cruise costs. "It makes it a double whammy. New Zealand is not so attractive in monetary terms."

 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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