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Auckland Port - Jo Brehaut 2013The New Zealand cruise sector is looking forward to record seasons ahead, but is warning of the need to address several big challenges if it’s to achieve its potential, according to industry association, Cruise New Zealand.

Chairman Kevin O’Sullivan, said a bullish approach had resulted in some good wins for the sector.

“We are a well-established cruise destination, benefitting from the continued growth of Australia as a source market, as well as leveraging off the big growth we are seeing in the Chinese cruise market.

“Our continual work to encourage the cruise lines to bring more and larger ships to New Zealand ports was strongly reinforced by the decision to base the new Quantum-class Ovation of the Seas in our region from December 2016,” he said.

However, O’Sullivan said the lack of berthing for larger ships means Ovation can’t be accommodated at Auckland port.

With capacity for almost 5000 passengers and 1300 crew, this will be the largest cruise ship to visit New Zealand – the equivalent of 12 Airbus A380s arriving at the same time.

“Ovation is still coming to Auckland but will be using tenders to ferry passengers between the ship and the port. This can impact negatively on the visitor experience, including limiting the amount of time they spend on shore.”

O’Sullivan said Cruise New Zealand is advocating for improved cruise infrastructure in all ports, and reduced barriers to ensure New Zealand is ‘cruise friendly’.

“It’s not a dissimilar situation to Auckland Airport which needed to build new infrastructure to accommodate the new A380s,” O’Sullivan said. “Cruise New Zealand has been warning that ever-bigger cruise ships want to come to New Zealand. Cruise lines plan three to five years ahead so if we cannot accommodate these newer, bigger ships, we are unlikely to see them for several years, if at all. We face immense harm to our economy if we are unable to deliver a positive big ship experience,” he concluded.

The Government’s ‘new and unheralded’ travel tax was also an unexpected and unwelcome barrier that will detrimentally affect the whole of the tourism sector, and cruise in particular, he said.

“We estimate this ill-conceived ‘border levy’ could knock almost $90 million off cruise sector earnings in 2018-19, compared to the NZ$7-8 million the government expects to collect from this new tax.

“We are proactively fighting this tax as part of a tourism and travel coalition led by the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand.”

One of Cruise New Zealand’s goals for the coming year will be to significantly raise the profile of the sector with decision makers and the public. “The cruise sector is a fast growing and valuable part of the New Zealand economy – contributing NZ$436 million in value added earnings in the 2014-15 season and supporting 8365 jobs. We have the potential for huge growth over the coming decade, however it will require the support of government, ports and communities around the country to achieve,” O’Sullivan said.

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