Buoyant cruise conference seeks to balance growth ·

Buoyant cruise conference seeks to balance growth

New Zealand’s cruise sector is in a buoyant mood, with speakers at the New Zealand Cruise Association 2018 Conference in Blenheim highlighting the country’s growing popularity as a cruise destination with both international and domestic passengers.

Attended by around 200 delegates from the cruise sector and wider tourism industry, local government and port representatives, as well as international cruise ship executives, this is the first time the conference has been held in Marlborough.

Attendees listened to and interacted with international speakers, including Cindy D’Aoust, the President and Chief Executive of Cruise Lines International Assn, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, representing more than 50 cruise lines.

Ms D’Aoust told delegates that cruise travel is steadily on the rise globally, with 28 million passengers forecast to sail the seas in 2018, up from 26.7m in 2017.

“With that growth comes more of a spotlight on cruise. We must lead the way when it comes to sustainability, innovation and investment and we must keep raising the bar on our own environmental performance.”

New Zealand’s cruise sector is growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the world and is projected to become a $1 billion sector in the next decade, said NZCA Chairman Debbie Summers.

“That growth is being driven by larger vessels, more cruises, and more winter exchanges – when cruise passengers embark or disembark at a New Zealand port.”

Stats NZ figures show cruise ship expenditure for the year to June 2018 jumped by 18.3% to $434 million on the previous year, and Ms Summers says that strong growth is forecast to continue.

“The focus of the 2018 conference was balancing growth and the importance of getting the best outcome for both the cruise sector and New Zealand communities.

“It’s important for us to steer the direction rather than just be reacting to growth. That requires collaboration of industry, politicians, ports, private investors and communities to realise how cruise can generate big benefits sustainably.”

Susan Bonner, Royal Caribbean Cruises Vice President and Managing Director, Australia, New Zealand, compared the cruise sector to the All Blacks, stressing the need for teamwork between all the different players in order to ensure everyone benefits from this fast growing tourism sector.

TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts, along with other speakers, emphasised the importance of the cruise sector connecting with host communities.

“Positively, one of the unique characteristics of cruise is that we know well ahead of time who is coming and when they are coming, which makes it much easier to plan – sometimes years ahead. That means our communities can be ready.”

Welcoming host communities are vital to ensuring cruise passengers have a fantastic experience, something New Zealand currently excels at, according to Stuart Allison, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific with Princess Cruises, which will bring almost 100,000 passengers here this summer.

“A critical driver for us in deciding where to deploy ships is the feedback guests give us post-cruise and New Zealand rates right up there. We have incredible demand for New Zealand and every port delivers – we just get this amazing consistency in every port we visit around the country.”

NZCA Chief Executive Kevin O’Sullivan said this was the first time the annual conference had been held in Marlborough, an important cruise destination that went all out as the host region, including the famous Picton flower ladies greeting every delegate on arrival with a corsage.

“Conference goers were buzzing with enthusiasm. There’s a lot of passion in this sector and a really positive vibe. Marlborough set the scene for a very successful conference and we’ll have to work very hard to match it at next year’s conference in Auckland.”

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