Covid response minister Chris Hipkins says cruise ship decision not far off
The cruise ship Norwegian Prima is launched in an Italian shipyard. Video / Norwegian Cruise Line
The government today said it was confident cruise ships would be back this summer, amid growing frustration in the industry over no fixed date for their return.
Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he understood no cruise ships had been booked until October, and was confident they would be welcome by then.
“I can understand the industry’s rush, and rule changes are not far away now to put clarity in place,” he told the Herald.
The government has previously said that the sea border is more complicated than the air border, and the minister reaffirmed that today.
“We had a few things to work out. We will absolutely standardize air and sea borders – we are only working on the details. We will make decisions as quickly as possible.”
The New Zealand Cruise Association today warned that New Zealand stands to lose millions of dollars unless the government confirms the reopening of maritime borders as soon as possible.
He says the lack of certainty also puts hundreds of struggling tourism businesses that support cruises at risk.
“The government’s continued silence on the reopening of our maritime borders wastes the huge contribution that New Zealand’s cruise industry could make by providing desperately needed revenue to help regional tourism operators survive until 2023,” said association president Debbie Summers.
New Zealand had already lost 250 port calls and around $150 million in revenue due to border uncertainty. Cruise lines need time to plan schedules for the 2022-23 cruise season and time is running out fast, she said.
“Over 80 countries around the world are now open to cruises, including Australia. We know there is considerable pent-up demand among travellers, but international cruise lines do not want to put New Zealand on their list. because we are still closed.”
The impact would hit regions that depend on cruise ship revenue the most in the summer, especially when international tourism was still recovering, Summers said.
Before the pandemic, the cruise industry added $550 million to the New Zealand economy, equivalent to the entire business and events industry.
“In the more than two years since our borders were closed, New Zealand has lost over $1 billion. This cannot continue. We cannot lose another cruise season without a serious breakdown in our ability to serve all visitors to New Zealand,” Summers said. mentioned.
The cruise industry was now well recognized as leading the way in Covid health measures, she said. All passengers and crew are vaccinated and regularly tested, ventilation has been considerably improved and sanitary measures on board are numerous.
Last month, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said he would like to see cruise ships again and praised the industry for its health response.
“Cruise is a really good case study of how a sector of the tourism economy was completely gutted. The perception of them was about as low as it gets and they changed that by working incredibly hard to meet the concerns of people who take cruises,” he told the Herald.