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NZ cruise industry ‘implores’ Kiwis to get the facts

5 Mar 2020  By Chris Hutching | |

New Zealand is likely to gain some extra cruise ship visits due to the prevalence of coronavirus in other countries, according to Debbie Summers, executive director of destination management company IDNZ.

Global cruise operators have been considering reallocating resources away from high-risk regions and Australasia was a possible alternative.

Debbie Summers

However, Summers “implored” New Zealanders to get the facts about risks around coronavirus and the cruise industry.

“It needs to be taken seriously but by panicking we have the real consequence of a dire future for this booming industry within New Zealand,” Summers said.

“It is very important to note that no New Zealand industry cruise ships have come from mainland China.

“The majority of the 270 cruise ships globally continue to sail unaffected by the virus.”

Summers said there were strict health and safety measures.

Passengers were denied boarding if they came from South Korea, Iran, China, Hong Kong, Macau, and any area within Italy subject to lockdown in the prior 14 or even up to 30 days. Screening time had increased up to four hours in Auckland, Summers said.

Cruise lines were working with health authorities, and reported any relevant illness before arrival, she said.

IDNZ provided customised cruise ship shore excursions and worked with the majority of cruise lines.

The share price of one the biggest cruise ship companies – Royal Caribbean Cruises – had fallen more than 40% over the past three weeks and it had cancelled 30 cruises to southeast Asia. The company warned of further downgrades. The share price of rival Carnival Corp was down about one quarter over the same time.

House of Travel director Brent Thomas told the Ticker earlier this week cruise bookings to New Zealand could increase.

“Their ships will be redeployed from Asia to Australasia and there’s a real chance bookings will increase,” Thomas said.

“They need to use their assets. There will be significant numbers of cruise ships in New Zealand and they’ll be looking for local people to fill them.”

NZ Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O’Sullivan said the “level of hysteria” about coronavirus had been unfortunate, especially over a suspected case on a ship at Tauranga.

Kevin O’Sullivan

“Cruise ships have a population of a small town of 3000 to 4000 people so you’re going to get some illness at any time,” he said.

“Fortunately it has calmed down. We haven’t seen cancellations. There may be one or two more ships coming here, although during winter the Australian coast would be a better prospect.”

O’Sullivan said the importance of cruise ships to regional economies was apparent in the disappointment of Dunedin businesses, which this week lost out on a visit by the Ovation of the Seas with 5000 passengers and a crew of 1500.

Bad weather put paid to the ship’s visit – the ninth ship to go past Dunedin this year because of weather.

Port Otago said it had done as much as it could to deepen the channel but strong winds were difficult for cruise ships to cope with.

O’Sullivan said he was keen to learn about alternative cruise berth facilities being considered by Auckland Council and the city’s port company after an extension to the cruise ship jetty was put on hold pending a court appeal.

Ports of Auckland had 43 cruise ship calls last year – one more than the previous year.

“This year is expected to be busier than last season. At present we’re not forecasting any impact from coronavirus on cruise business, although this could change,” a port spokesman said.

At Christchurch, bigger cruise ships would soon be able to tie up at a new berth in Lyttelton to be completed later this year.

And more ships would soon be able to land at Port of Napier after construction of a new 350-metre long wharf, which got under way this week.


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