2023 Cruise visits expected to bring up to $3.7m to economy this season

Cruise visits to Timaru are estimated to have generated approximately $2.8m into the local economy last season and with more passengers coming on larger ships this season, that figure is expected to grow to around $3.7m.

Economic and tourism agency Venture Timaru has commissioned Infometrics to report on the economic impact of the cruise sector for the district, as Timaru is becoming a more sought after destination for the cruise industry.

The report estimates that $284 per passenger was spent in Timaru, for the 2022-2023 season. This is based on Stats NZ’s Cruise ship traveller and expenditure statistics: Year ended June 2019 and New Zealand Cruise Association’s Cruise Tourism Economic Overview 2020.  Infometrics has used these reports to calculate the estimated total revenue per passenger at each New Zealand port, and then updated this to reflect 2022 prices. This is an interim approach, until these two publications are updated for the 2022/23 season.

The spend per port varies widely from $225 per passenger at the Bay of Islands, through to $1,212 at Auckland. The range reflects the breadth of services available to passengers, crew and vessels at each port, and the difference in spend between a transit port (where visitors disembark and reembark) and a turnaround port (where visitors start or end their cruise).

Infometrics has used Picton as a proxy for Timaru’s cruise spend, as neither destination are transit ports or major resupply points. The average spend per cruise passenger includes purchases by the passengers and crew as individuals, as well as supply of goods and services for the ship such as berthage to the port company.

Predications of spending for the 12 ships scheduled for 2023-2024 season are based on 77% occupancy of the ships, as experienced in the 2022-2023 season.

“It’s been a challenge to get these figures, as cruise statistics have not been updated for some time, but we wanted to get a gauge of what this business means to our economy,” said Venture Timaru chief executive Nigel Davenport.

“We acknowledge that there will be some updating of the figures as new data is received, but overall it’s an impressive result and important for us all to realise the impact these visitors have on our economy,” he said.

Mr Davenport said members of the community often questioned how much impact the cruise visits have on the economy and there were varying views about this.

“That’s why it’s been important to get this report done, so we have an actual indicator of the value of the cruise visitors.  The reality is that not every passenger spends on souvenirs or tours, but overall there is significant spending that takes place and on top of that, the port company gains important income from the visits.”

Alongside the economic analysis, Venture Timaru has also surveyed the local community to assess the social impact of cruise visits on the region and to gauge local residents feelings regarding the cruise ship visits.

“We were pretty pleased to find that the feedback in the survey was overwhelming positive, with 93 percent supporting the cruise sector coming to Timaru and almost all of those surveyed are keen to see more ships calling,” he said.

For the community, the key benefits identified were that the cruise visits are good for business, promote the district and bring more international visitors to district.

A second survey of businesses and tourism operators involved in the cruise visits for 2022-2023 similarly supported the cruise sector and are keen for it to grow.

Neither group considered there were significant negatives in having cruise visit to Timaru.

Last season Timaru welcomed 14 ships, and for the 2023-2024 the current schedule will see 12 ships call, with nine of the vessels having capacity to carry between 1400 – 1900 passengers.

“It’s important for us to keep the community involved with what’s happening for the cruise visits so we are planning public information meetings in the next few weeks in Timaru and Geraldine, plus we’re meeting with the tour operators regularly.”

Venture Timaru will also undertake proactive promotion via social media, and ensure information drops into shops regarding the cruise visits take place.

“To help the passengers, we’ll also engaging Lions Club helpers again this year as community navigators.

Mr Davenport said Venture Timaru works has a close working relationship with PrimePort Timaru for the cruise visits.

“Our aim is to enhancement the array of experiences on offer to all cruise passengers and do all we can to ensure that they have an enjoyable and memorable visit to our region.”