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Dunedin Host and the Dunedin City Council's economic development unit are offering local tour operators advice on how to use online marketing to capture a wider section of the cruise-ship passenger market.
Dunedin Host board member and city councillor Andrew Whiley said the initiative would provide operators with the information needed to grow their online game. This would begin before the next cruise season.
''We want them to succeed. If they grow they will inject money into the Dunedin economy,'' he said.
Cr Whiley contacted The Star after some operators last week said they were missing out on thousands of dollars due to being unable to sell their tours, in person, on the wharf at Port Chalmers.
University of Otago marketing lecturer James Henry said research showed only 3% of cruise passengers booked tours on the day they arrived in Dunedin. Dr Henry said he was available to provide online marketing advice and operators could call him or iSite manager Louise Van de Vlierd.
Tour operators were banned from selling their services on the wharf after the 2012-13 cruise-ship season.
Dunedin was the last port in New Zealand to allow operators to sell tours on the wharf. Cruise companies had not been happy about this, as they wanted passengers to buy tours on board, if possible, or to use businesses the companies had relationships with, Cr Whiley said.
''The cruise companies need to create revenue at the ports or they won't come.''
A cruise operator accreditation programme was set up by Dunedin Host in September 2012. The programme offered operators advice on how to improve their services and meant complaints were more thoroughly documented.
Cr Whiley had gone to the wharf for inspections eight times during the 2012-13 season and while he was there everyone was well behaved.
However, he had received complaints of bad behaviour about a small minority of operators - including allegations operators were verbally abusing shuttle ticket-sellers, fighting among themselves and sleeping in their vehicles. He received complaints of poor service, including operators' vehicles being in poor condition, and tours not proceeding as advertised.
The bad behaviour had not been the reason for the ban but it had given the cruise companies ammunition to use against tour operators, Cr Whiley said.
- by Jonathan Chilton-Towle