Better welcome urged for cruise passengers

Dunedin needs to do more to welcome cruise ship passengers to secure an industry now worth $38 million a year to Otago, a new action plan suggests.

The draft 2014-17 action plan - being developed in consultation with the Dunedin City Council, Port Otago and other stakeholders - will be discussed at today's council economic development committee meeting.

The document listed the city's strengths and weaknesses in catering for the cruise ship industry but warned more ''appropriate'' facilities needed to be considered for passengers disembarking at Port Chalmers.

At present, passengers disembarked on to a container terminal before being ushered through a shed and boarding buses to the city or its attractions.

The report acknowledged the wharf's primary purpose meant a dedicated passenger terminal was ''unlikely to ever be an option''.

However, other facilities could be considered, and ''a decision needs to be made around appropriate passenger reception facilities at the port'', it said.

That could include providing covered gangways and walkways to protect passengers from the elements as they disembarked.

The idea was among those listed as an action for Port Otago to consider, while the council was encouraged to consider ways to improve the passenger experience in the Octagon.

Such an investment would encourage more passengers to disembark, lifting the rate from 90% and potentially increasing the revenue generated for the city, it said.

It would also address the ''negative'' experience, due in part to a lack of shelter, reported by some cruise ship passengers.

A report by Enterprise Dunedin business development adviser Sophie Barker, accompanying the draft action plan, said cruise ships were worth $38 million to Otago in 2013-14.

Dunedin's share of that stood at $32 million, with 10% of all visitors to the city now arriving by cruise ship, she said.

The industry's value for Otago was projected to continue rising and would reach $42.5 million by 2015-16, she said.

The draft action plan warned Dunedin would need to maintain its competitive edge, including in infrastructure, to secure the industry's future.

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