City a hit with cruise passengers

Dunedin's cruise ship season brought almost 153,000 passengers into the city off 115 vessels, and research shows they were a remarkably satisfied lot.

They are also getting younger, fitter and more adventurous, and more are coming from China.

The cruise ship industry is the world's fastest growth sector in tourism; numbers have risen from more than 10 million in 2006 to 28.5 million last year.

Dunedin has seen the fruits of that increase as visiting ship numbers have risen from 89 in 2017-18 to an expected 130 next season.

The numbers emerged at the annual season debriefing at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery yesterday.

The meeting, attended by about 50 tourism operators, heard there were 121 ships booked for the season. Six were cancelled due to bad weather conditions.

There were 130 booked for next season so far, and 135 for 2020-21.

The ships were catered for by 95 private tour groups and taxi and rental car companies.

Port Otago cruise manager Carolyn Bennett said it was estimated two-thirds of the total of 229,000 passengers left the ships to visit Dunedin while they were in port.

''That's quite a big influx of people.''

Maree Thyne, of the University of Otago's department of marketing, gave some early results of a survey of cruise ship passengers she undertook that showed passengers were happy with their experience of Dunedin.

The market was changing from one that was the preserve of a wealthy elite to an activity that was now more mainstream.

The average age of passengers was decreasing, they were fitter and more adventurous, and ''many more'' Chinese passengers were coming to New Zealand.

While, generally, one-third of passengers left vessels when they arrived in port, Dunedin's statistics were better. Numbers from a visit by Golden Princess in 2016 showed only 10% of passengers stayed on board.

Dr Thyne's research was the result of 742 questionnaires filled in by passengers.

She was still analysing the results, 68% of which were filled in by passengers on Dunedin Railways, but early results showed the friendliness of locals, scenery and safety were the aspects of the visit they were most satisfied with.

A remarkable 95% were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their experience, and 98% said they would recommend Dunedin as a place to disembark.

Of those who filled in the survey, 57% said they planned to return to Dunedin.

From comments provided, the passengers wanted more time in port, more local culture, free transport and a ''better explanation Port Chalmers is not in Dunedin''.

Tour operators at the meeting noted issues with bus parking.

Ritchies Coachlines Ltd regional manager Malcolm Budd suggested more bus stops for tourist buses in Princes St where stops were no longer needed now the new bus hub was in place.

i-Site Dunedin visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said she hoped some extra parking might be made available.

2018-19 cruise ships

229,000 passengers arrived
153,000 disembarked to visit Dunedin
115 ships visited during the season
130 booked for next year
98% of 742 passengers surveyed said they would recommend Dunedin as a place to disembark

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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