The 2013-14 cruise season saw 202,700 passengers on 33 separate ships which made 119 voyages and spent 699 days at ports around the country. Of the season’s total $365.3m spend, passengers accounted for $273m, vessel-related spending was $63.6m and crew-related spend was $28.7m. It is estimated that the cruise sector supported 6818 jobs in New Zealand. Annually Northland alone benefits in excess of $12 million from this industry.

There has been some interesting talk lately as to whether Whangarei and more specifically North Port could ever be a future destination for cruise ships. While I am sure there are many in our community better informed on this subject than me, I would like to share some observations from some work we undertook in late 2013 involving representatives of the New Zealand cruise industry, tourism groups and local government to discuss Whangarei’s potential as a destination for cruise ships.

The purpose of the meetings held here and in Tauranga was to provide some context on North Port becoming a future port-of-call for these ships. New Zealand has enjoyed a cruise growth of over 250% over the last five years, making cruise arrivals the fourth largest inbound market for New Zealand tourism. Industry commentators suggest that the demand created by this projected growth is not capable of being met by the existing ports-of-call.

For this reason any participation by Whangarei in this sector is unlikely to be at the detriment of other destinations. This is a unique situation where various destinations are not directly competing with each other but rather providing an integrated, complementary range of choices to meet a growing market demand. It is not only the urban centres immediately adjacent to these ports that benefit. To use the Port of Tauranga as an example, about 40% of all passengers who disembark there travel to Rotorua to experience what that town has to offer. This means that economic centres in the wider vicinity – in some cases up to 2 hours motoring – can still take advantage of the opportunities presented.

In North Port, Whangarei has the infrastructure required to berth, bunker and service these ships. However for this to happen, local tourism operators will need to define what it is that Whangarei has to offer to both the international and the domestic market and then communicate to those outside the region why they should visit Whangarei. It done successfully then the entire region can benefit from this activity.

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