New Zealand leads Pacific revival
By Joel Katz, Managing Director, CLIA Australasia
THE sight of P&O Cruises’ Pacific Explorer sailing into Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour earlier this month was an emotional moment for New Zealand’s cruise community.
After an absence of 880 days, the many thousands of Kiwis who once relied on cruise tourism for their livelihoods now have a chance to rebuild and help re-establish one of the world’s most vibrant and spectacular cruise destinations.
Amid water cannons, a Māori welcome and an appearance by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the ship’s visit symbolised a reunification for the Australian and New Zealand cruise industries and an opportunity to re-establish trans-Tasman cruising as one of the world’s great ocean traditions.
In recent days, I’ve had a chance to experience the relief and anticipation among New Zealand cruise supporters and the wider tourism community as the New Zealand Cruise Association hosted its annual conference in Auckland.
Our Kiwi colleagues have done it tough, and the levels of emotion after long periods of isolation and economic hardship are familiar.
But what’s clear after meeting so many of the determined survivors of the New Zealand tourism industry is that cruising will receive more support than ever as ships return over the coming summer. Among New Zealand ports, destinations, tourism operators and government agencies, there’s a better-than-ever understanding of how much cruise tourism contributes to local communities and how much opportunity it offers as it returns.
As Pacific Explorer sailed north from Auckland to Fiji, it achieved another first for our region and heralded the revival of cruising across the wider South Pacific. This represents not only an opportunity to rebuild an industry worth FJ$44 million a year to Fijians, but also the start of a renewal spreading to places like New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and other Pacific neighbours.
No doubt there are still challenges ahead, but we can be proud of what we’ve achieved with the support of our dedicated Pacific community.