A clamp down on cruise ship passengers paying cash to tour bus operators touting for business outside the port gates has sparked accusations that Tourism Bay of Plenty was creating a monopoly.
The Tauranga District Council has decided to stop the practice in which tour companies had been working outside bylaws that controlled trading on streets.
When the cruise ship season kicks off on October 4, passengers will have to either book their tours through Tourism BOP's wharfside information centre (i-port) or deal directly with the bus companies through the internet so that no cash was exchanged on the street.
It meant that operators who last season did not use the i-port or the internet will have to link into Tourism BOP's ticketing agency and pay a 15 per cent commission in order to pick up passengers around the port gates.
The issue came to a head yesterday when Simon Beaton of the Tauranga Cruise Tourism Operators Association spoke to the city council.
The association's complaints revolved around the lack of consultation, the 15 per cent levy on bookings and the council ruling that the 47 carparks around the Pilot Bay port gates will become a tour vehicles pick up and drop-off area on cruise ship visit days.
Mr Beaton said that Tourism BOP was using the rule changes to create a monopoly situation with cruise ships - effectively imposing a tax on members.
He said tour operators will need written permission from the council to promote their businesses in the special parking area. "The sale of goods and services will not be permitted," a report to the meeting said.
The council said the Mobile Shops Policy did not allow trading in the drop-off and pick-up area and the sale of goods and services was not permitted by the Street Use Policy.
Mr Beaton said that Tourism BOP's CEO Rhys Arrowsmith had told them that since commissions on ticket sales at the i-port were not covering costs, it was decided that all sales including those outside the port gates must be ticketed through Tourism BOP.
He said that when Tourism BOP came up with a draft sales contract in July, the association sought legal advice and went to the Commerce Commission.
"As a result, it was found that council bylaws did not allow Tourism BOP to do what they wanted."
Mr Beaton said a new sales agreement would be presented to the association on Thursday would impose "monopoly control on all sales inside and outside the port and give us no time to seek legal advice before the first ship arrives."
He said they were not averse to paying a fee but considered the proposal unfair.
Mr Arrowsmith highlighted the council policies and said that no commission was payable on internet bookings directly with operators.
He said they took the sales agreement to the Commerce Commission to make sure it was robust. "We are not interested in doing anything illegal or unethical."
Mr Arrowsmith said a 15 per cent commission was the industry norm and they were not trying to recover all their costs from transport operators. The i-port lost money.
"The minority is not happy about it," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
2014/15 cruise season
• 84 ships
• 62 days where ships will be in port
• 16 days where two ships will be in port
• 3 days where three ships will be in port