The Cruise Ship Market – Beyond the Negativity

In recent years the cruise ship market visiting New Zealand has developed considerably with larger numbers of ships and visitors than ever before choosing to visit our shores in their floating hotel.

The recession is one reason this has come about – with the combination of competitive deals on offer by the cruise ship companies and the attraction of having all meals included it makes for an easy and more affordable holiday. It’s a trend happening worldwide that we need to work with and not fight against.

The coach tour market in particular has been significantly affected with large downturns in their bookings, which in turn impacts on tourism businesses that have traditionally worked hard to attract bookings from this market and have built strong relationships with drivers and guides on their route. While accommodation providers and tourism activities not based near a cruise ship port miss out on this market altogether.

But beyond the negative impact of this shift in how tourists visit New Zealand, what are the positives for our industry and what strategies can we use for this new era for tourism?

  • Areas with port facilities have to improve their infrastructure and services around cruise ship visits to ensure visits run smoothly – not only is it the physical ports that may need upgrading but also transport while visitors are ashore, booking offices to help them plan a day on land, plus food and hospitality options that are affordable with a range of choices on offer. Food stalls and markets set up just for the duration of the ship visit are a good example of this. Out of town vendors can plan to come to these markets to take advantage of these visits. You personally may not have overall control over these things but you can help to drive your local council and business associations to be creative and plan for these things.
  • Tourism operators should be thinking about how they can offer special events or attractions based on their core activity to suit cruise ship passengers – can they offer day trips with transport included to get the ship visitors to them? Or can they bring their attraction to the cruise ship visitors? For example a cultural attraction based in Rotorua may plan to offer a “mobile” cultural show in Tauranga while ships are in port.
  • Operators should aim to work with the New Zealand based inbound tour companies that have been contracted for planning shore excursions – they will want to pre-book the ship passengers on tours and so will be keen for options available that work in well with the timing of ship visits
  • For those businesses that simply don’t have a product to get bookings from cruise ship visitors will need to become even more effective at attracting the FIT market. Coach tours may no longer bring those big numbers to your door each week so your marketing strategy needs to include attracting the individual travellers via a variety of mediums. Don’t give up on those coach tour companies though, continue your relationship with them – they will be strategising ways to get some of their market share back so you need to hang in there with them.
  • Hotels should be looking at how they price their inhouse hospitality options – travellers may be attracted by cheap room rates but don’t eye gauge them with exorbitant food and beverage bills, they can’t help but compare this to a cruise ship package…

A lot of cruise ship passengers are often not seasoned travellers – they have chosen a cruise ship package because it’s an easy way to travel and have a holiday – but getting a positive taste of New Zealand while in port will no doubt attract a certain percentage of them to plan a trip back on land rather than just skirting the coastline…

[box]…We therefore need to make sure their experiences while in port are so good they want to come back to explore New Zealand more…[/box]