The Pacific Explorer, the first cruise ship in more than two years to visit Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Auckland may get a dedicated cruise ship terminal as Ports of Auckland works on how to give visitors in the $ 200 million a year economic sector the best possible experience of the City of Sails.
New port company chief executive Roger Gray said his team is in the very early stages of deciding whether the city, which benefited by $ 207m in the 2019-2020 cruise ship season, deserves and needs a special home for visiting vessels.
The work was still “embryonic” and had yet to get to the planning stage, so Gray couldn’t discuss the possible cost and shape of a dedicated terminal, but he said the Auckland Council-owned port was keen to improve a visitor experience which right now can be “varied”.
Up to 100 cruise ship visits are scheduled for Auckland this season, which started in July, and more than 130 in the 2023-2024 season. Auckland by far gets the biggest cruise tourism spend of any region, according to the New Zealand Cruise Association.
Gray said at the moment it varied which building passengers were welcomed at and processed by authorities and from where they accessed the city.
“It can be at Shed 10 or the Hilton, it’s not consistent. Coming from Air New Zealand I want to standardize and improve your first arrival experience in New Zealand.”
Gray, who joined the Auckland port earlier this year from the top job at Lyttelton port, was group general manager airports for Air NZ for six years until 2020.
“Cruise ships are a very important part of the Auckland economy and we want to make sure Auckland is the destination of choice. We will play our part along with Auckland Airport and the council to make Auckland the destination of choice for cruise passengers.”
Gray said the port would work with the council and cruise lines if the early in-house work progressed.
“We’re looking at what is the best way to improve the experience both arriving and going on board the ship. When they come to Auckland how best to build the experience when they come off the ship and how they interact with the city.”
“When a cruise ship came in recently we utilized The Cloud. It could be we work in with the council to better utilize The Cloud as a more permanent facility. We don’t know yet, but we want to improve the experience.”
The Cloud is a multi-purpose event venue on Queen’s Wharf.
Questions under discussion included how passengers left or joined a ship.
“Do they get in a bus and get transported to a terminal or do they have the opportunity to walk? Cruise lines say most passengers like to walk after being cooped up on a ship. These are the sort of things we might discuss with cruise lines . “
Asked if the port was considering building a special terminal, Gray said: “I don’t know yet. We are in the early stages, (but) we would be quite open about it when we got into a planning stage.”
“At the moment we’re just trying to understand what passengers want.”
Before the pandemic forced an early close to the 2019-2020 cruise season, the national cruise tourism spend was $ 547m, according to the Cruise Association.
The estimated value of the spend in the canceled 2020-2021 season would have been $ 690m.
Cruise ship contribution to the economy is made up of spending by cruise visitors ($ 356.4m in 2029-2020) on shore excursions and spending ashore by passengers and crew, and spending associated with the vessels ($ 138.7m) on port and other fees and purchase of fuel, produce and other supplies, and GST from cruise expenditure ($ 52m).
The Auckland region recorded the highest spend in 2019-2020 at $ 207.5m, followed by Bay of Plenty at $ 74.2m and Wellington at $ 53m.
The association said the spend was significantly higher in Auckland due to turnarounds (passenger exchanges when passengers disembark or new passengers join a ship), provision of stores and fuel and the volume of calls at the port.