The Pacific Explorer, the first cruise ship in over two years to visit Auckland. Photo/Brett Phibbs
Auckland could get a dedicated cruise terminal as Auckland Ports works on how to give visitors to the $200million-a-year economy the best possible experience of the City of Sails.
The port company’s new chief executive, Roger Gray, said his team is in the very early stages of deciding whether the city, which benefited from $207 million during the 2019-20 cruise ship season, deserves and needs a special home for visiting ships.
The work was still “embryonic” and had not yet reached the planning stage, so Gray could not discuss the possible cost and form of a dedicated terminal, but he said the council-owned port d ‘Auckland was keen to improve a visitor experience which at this time can be ‘varied’.
Up to 100 cruise ship visits are expected in Auckland this season, which started in July, and more than 130 in the 2023-24 season. Auckland gets by far the biggest cruise tourism spend of any region, according to the New Zealand Cruise Association.
Gray said that currently passengers in buildings are met and processed by authorities and from where they access the city.
“It could be Shed 10 or Hilton, it’s not consistent. Coming from Air New Zealand, I want to standardize and improve your first time arrival experience in New Zealand.”
Gray, who joined the Port of Auckland earlier this year from the top job at the Port of Lyttelton, was group general manager of airports for Air NZ for six years until 2020.
“Cruise ships are a very important part of Auckland’s economy and we want to make sure Auckland is the destination of choice. We will play our part 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 early internal work progresses.
“We are looking at what is the best way to improve the experience both when arriving and departing the ship. When they arrive in Auckland, how best to build the experience when they get off the ship and how they interact with the city.
“When a cruise ship arrived recently we used The Cloud. We may work with the council to better use The Cloud as a more permanent facility. We don’t know yet, but we want to improve the ‘experience.”
The Cloud is a versatile event venue on Queen’s Wharf.
The issues under discussion centered on how passengers left or joined a ship.
“Do they get on a bus and be transported to a terminal or are they given the option of walking? Cruise lines say most passengers like to walk after being locked on a ship.”
When asked if the port was considering building a special terminal, Gray replied: “I don’t know yet. We are in the early stages (but) we would be quite open about it when we enter a phase of planning.”
“At the moment we are just trying to understand what the passengers want.”
Before the pandemic forced an early shutdown of the 2019-20 cruise season, national cruise tourism spending was $547 million, according to the Cruise Association.
The estimated value of spending for the canceled 2020-21 season would have been $690 million.
The contribution of cruise ships to the economy is made up of spending by cruise lines ($356.4 million in 2029-2020) on shore excursions and spending ashore by passengers and crew, as well as spending associated with vessels ($138.7 million) in port and other charges and purchase fees. fuel, commodities and other supplies, and GST on cruise expenses ($52 million).
The Auckland region recorded the highest spending in 2019-20 at $207.5 million, followed by Bay of Plenty at $74.2 million and Wellington at $53 million.
The association said spending was significantly higher in Auckland due to turnarounds (passenger exchanges when passengers disembark or new passengers join a ship), the provision of stores and fuel and the volume of stopovers at the port.