Cruise visitors help boost business confidence

17 June 2013

Cruise ship passengers visiting Akaroa are helping lift business confidence and fuelling interest in Canterbury as a destination, a new survey shows.

The survey was conducted by Lincoln University's Department of Social Science, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport and involved interviews with 433 cruise ship passengers and a set of business stakeholders.

The average spend of the passengers surveyed was $129.26; those who stayed in Akaroa reported an average spend of $117.90 per visitor and those who visited locations outside Akaroa reported an average spend of $141.55.

The majority of cruise ship passengers surveyed (64%) were highly satisfied with their port visit, with 59% reporting they were likely to return on a cruise to Akaroa, 67% reporting they were likely to return to Akaroa and 69% indicating they would return to Christchurch. Altogether 90% of those surveyed said they would recommend the region to family and friends.

The business stakeholders reported that while cruise ship visitor spending was primarily on smaller, low-value items it did contribute between 5 and 30% of annual turnover, and was enough to support extra employment and engender considerable business confidence, which had been badly shaken by the global recession and the impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes.

Eighty-six cruise ships carrying 143,925 passengers visited Akaroa during the 2012/13 cruise season.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter says it is clear from the survey results that while having so many cruise ships visiting Akaroa does pose some logistical and community challenges, the economic benefits have been significant.

"Visitors clearly enjoy the experience and their presence is giving businesses a much-needed boost during a difficult trading time so we're thrilled our efforts to keep cruise ships coming to Canterbury after the loss of the berthing facilities at Lyttelton have paid off,"  Mr Hunter says.

Craig Harris, chairman of Cruise New Zealand says if Akaroa had not stood up to the challenge of being the main port of call for cruise ships visiting Canterbury, cruise lines would have bypassed the region altogether.

"Akaroa has coped brilliantly, passenger satisfaction levels have been exceeded, and calling into Akaroa has allowed cruise lines to support the region as well as using existing operators," Mr Harris says.

Paul Bingam, director of Akaroa-based Black Cat Cruises, says the township is heavily reliant on tourism and the cruise ship visits have helped offset the drop-off in visitor numbers that have occurred as a result of the bed shortage in Christchurch.

"We've already had customers who came in last season on a cruise ship return in vehicles and stay in local accommodation. Without the ships putting us on the map they may have gone elsewhere," Mr Bingham says.

Wayne Jones, the owner and manager of Bully Hayes restaurant in Akaroa describes the cruise ship visits as a "God send" and says they have helped keep business activity at pre-earthquake levels.

"There has been a noticeable effect on the whole local economy – our local population have more money in their pockets and are spending it locally," Mr Jones says.