A cruise industry boss says New Zealand is well placed to capitalise on the $100 billion build of new ships and companies are keen to work with towns to ease pressure of an influx of passengers.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says 122 new ships will be built during the next eight years to meet demand in the fast growing market.

The association's Australasian managing director Joel Katz said infrastructure was crucial to attracting more visits and potentially for more cruise companies to use New Zealand for home porting their ships.

The green light for a controversial new mooring dolphin structure at Auckland to allow bigger ships to berth at Queens Wharf was critical for the city's future as a turnaround port, where thousands of passengers begin a new voyage and this benefited airlines, hotels and the hospitality sector.

Advertisement

"Boosting capacity in Auckland will ensure increasing demand among both New Zealanders and international visitors can be met in the future," he said while releasing figures showing a boom in the popularity of cruising among Kiwis.

"This, together with the development of a new cruise berth at Lyttelton to serve Christchurch, gives us confidence New Zealand's cruise sector will continue to grow well into the future.'"

Katz said the industry was working with communities such as Akaroa where some locals had complained of being swamped by visitors when ships arrived. Overseas cruise lines had restricted the size of ships that visited Venice.

Most of the new vessels being built were very large mega-ships or smaller ultra luxury ships and expedition ships.

More expedition ships are being built to meet a growing demand. Image / Supplied
More expedition ships are being built to meet a growing demand. Image / Supplied

New Zealanders are taking to ocean cruising faster than any other country, breaking through the 100,000 barrier for the first time - reaching a total of 112,000 passengers a year in a spurt of world-leading growth.

The record result in 2018 was a 14.6 per cent increase on the previous year, well ahead of the growth rate of the world's largest and more established cruise markets, including the United States (9.4 per cent) and Europe (3.3 per cent).

While just a fraction of the global market, figures released today by CLIA showed a strong momentum in the Kiwi market, with passenger growth averaging 13.5 per cent each year over the past decade.

The association said the report provided support for Auckland Council's decision to extend berthing facilities at Queens Wharf.

While the figures show where Kiwis are cruising around the world, they also show the number taking a cruise in local waters. Just on 27,000 Kiwis cruised local waters, up 18.1 per cent on the previous year.

The association says New Zealand regional ports were benefiting from growth here. Across the region - New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific - growth in cruising by Kiwis was up 20.6 per cent to 78,000.

The number taking fly-cruise options in destinations farther afield also grew, up 3.2 per cent on the previous year.

"Not only are they choosing a cruise to explore the world in increasing numbers, they're also opting to cruise in their own waters to see more of New Zealand," Katz said

Around the world, 28.5 million people cruised last year, up 6.7 per cent.

The cruise sector represents about 2 per cent of overall global travel, according to the association. The cruise industry is growing at 6.7 per cent, higher than the global 6 per cent growth of tourism overall.

The CLIA Ocean Source Market report also finds:

• The equivalent of 2.5 per cent of New Zealand's population took an ocean cruise last year, giving the nation a greater market penetration rate than established markets like Italy (1.3 per cent), Spain (1.1 per cent) and France (0.8 per cent).

• The average age of the New Zealand cruise passenger dropped from 52 to 51, with around 60 per cent of passengers aged under 60.

• The most popular cruise duration was 8-13 days, attracting 46 per cent of cruisers. Shorter voyages of less than four days saw the biggest increase, up 144 per cent.

• Europe/Mediterranean was the most popular long-haul region for Kiwi cruisers (12.1 per cent), followed by North America/Caribbean/Hawaii (10.6 per cent) and Asia (4.7 per cent).