Currently, debate is occurring in Auckland re the location of a cruise ship terminal. Newspaper correspondents and commentators all talk of the economic benefit from a suitable facility, stemming from the tourists retail spending. The reality is very different.
Wellington currently cops circa 130 cruise ship visits annually, mostly in the summer months.
I lie in bed in the morning and watch them appear at the harbour mouth about 6am then sail rapidly up the harbour to their berth some distance from the city centre. Frequently two arrive, one tying up behind the other.
If in my Wellington office later that day I watch them depart, usually in late afternoon. From their berthage most of the ship’s occupants pile into buses for a city tour. A lesser number opt to walk about the CBD from the prime central spot the buses drop them off near my office. They’re conspicuous as they’re the sort of folk one doesn’t see in the capital but might in Westport.
The buses reappear at midday to take them back to the ship for lunch and if they’re so inclined, bring them back after. Typical cruise ship occupants are 70 year old retired Australian small town yokel and his wife, both in shorts. They spend nothing.
The liners are luxurious and provide accommodation, restaurant and other services that if on land would be beyond the boat’s occupants wildest dreams.
The port visits serve solely as an interlude but the real attraction of the cruise to these folk is the cruise, the making of new like-minded friends and the luxurious life-style they’d only otherwise know from movies.
A minor exception is Napier which has cashed in on the art deco angle with a number of efforts but in monetary terms they’re trivia.
Awake to this reality some European cities such as Venice now deny tour ships access.
Pre covid I recall an amusing television news-item from Dubrovnik. Fed up with their city being clogged by thousands of non-spending cruise liner hick tourists, about a thousand citizens gathered on the wharf where just off-shore anchored 3 cruise liners waiting to berth.
But they did not, the ships’ captain being afraid of the massed locals holding up signs and shouting at them all to bugger off. The Dubrovnik economy is based on tourism, but cruise ship sight-seers spending nothing are simply a nuisance.
We’re not at that stage yet in New Zealand and may never be, but don’t delude yourself that cruise ship visitors bring economic benefits.