By Ali Adams, ChristchurchNZ Chief Executive Officer
Spring in Ōtautahi really is beautiful. From the blossoms along the avenues to the bird song waking us in the morning, it is a season that is easy to soak up as the days get longer. And our city is definitely on show as we warmly welcome back the show and our annual races. It is also a season that has brought the long-awaited return of a distinct market of international visitors to our city.
After an 11-year hiatus, passenger cruises have returned to Christchurch. It’s incredibly exciting to have welcomed cruise visitors back – almost 170,000 will dock on the brand new purpose-built Lyttelton terminal between October and mid-April.
This is a significant milestone, and the new Lyttelton cruise terminal means more to the region than just a rebuild. Akaroa has taken the load since the Canterbury quakes but now with our new infrastructure in place we are better able to manage visitation in a way that provides a better outcome for residents, businesses and our environment. And importantly for our local tourism and hospitality industries that have faced challenging times, there will be a spending boost with a steady schedule of 85 cruise ship visits to Lyttelton and another 17 to Akaroa.
Lyttelton will welcome the largest of the season, Ovation of the Seas, which will dock six times carrying over 4,000 passengers and 1300 crew each time. And their spend is significant, which means city resources will be heavily in demand. There are flow-on impacts of this spend to all sectors from supply of raw goods to transport, hospitality, retail and more. Additionally, as a city of small business owners, this money then gets spent locally, which is good for all of us.
Eleven years on from our last large passenger cruise ship, we have a fresh, revitalised city and new tourism experiences on offer. As a city that for over two years has only had domestic visitors, we had to get ready for this influx of international visitors. In our role as the city’s Regional Tourism Organisation, we recruited 59 volunteers to serve as City Champions. They are cruise ambassadors who serve as greeters, navigators and fonts of information for the thousands of cruise passengers who arrive in the central city from the cruise berth at Lyttelton Port. More volunteers from the Lyttelton Harbour Information Centre serve as guides at the port and in Lyttelton.
Historically, about a third of cruise passengers pre-book tourism experiences, which range from attractions such as Waka On Avon and the International Antarctic Centre, to tours of the Waipara wine region or a wildlife spotting excursion on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour, or Akaroa Harbour. Another third tend to stay on the cruise ship enjoying on board experiences, and the remaining third choose to
wander around, enjoying the local hospitality and retail offerings. Early indications are that as “new” destination, passengers are keen to get off and explore our revitalised city.
Last Thursday, on the first day of the cruise season, our staff were in the streets with the cruise ambassadors, helping to welcome these important visitors to our city. We were delighted to hear lots of positive comments about Christchurch, with passengers noting the vibrancy of the city and the wonderful architecture.
Cruise technology continues to improve, and the cruise industry recognises that change is necessary for environmental preservation. Destinations are focussed on a visitor attraction and experiences and how they impact on place, as opposed to volume of visitation at any cost. As we develop our destination management plan we will consider, with the benefit of this year’s cruise season experience, how we would like cruise visitation to fit with our city aspirations.
In the meantime, let’s embrace this opportunity and show these visitors a warm Waitaha welcome. I was inspired by the example of City Champion Max Luxas, who last Thursday was stationed by the Bridge of Remembrance in a hard-to-miss bright pink vest with a big stack of city guides we had prepared to point cruise passengers to attractions, activities and hotspots around the city. Max said he volunteered because he loves to meet new people and he loves Christchurch. I say a big thank you to our proud and passionate Cantabrians who are showing manaakitanga to our visitors.
You can see the full schedule of cruise ships and passenger numbers here. I encourage you to take this opportunity to spread the word amongst your connections and community so we can all be prepared to showcase our incredible city and all it has to offer.