NAPIER, New Zealand – Napier’s tourism industry is being warned that its $20 million income from cruise ships “might be turned off”, if over-aggressive selling by on-shore tourism operators does not stop.
Napier City Council is hiring a “peace officer” to ensure operators trying to sell outside the city’s i-Site, where cruise passengers are dropped off, abide by a code of conduct.
That code did not allow for calling out offers or trying to hustle passengers into tours to attractions.
The city port’s popularity as a cruise ship destination dropped from second to eighth last season.
Partly to blame was that on- land tourism operators were getting “too aggressive” when selling to passengers as they got off buses on Marine Parade, some in the industry said.
Others said the cruise lines were using their size “to dictate what local operators can or can not do”.
At a i-Site pre-cruise season meeting last month, industry attendees were told Cruise New Zealand had complained about “aggressive touting in passengers’ faces [and] independent operators exaggerating the cons of booking a ship’s tour.” P&O Cruises had directly confronted Napier tourism officials about the matter, said i-Site manager Jane Libby.
In a national editorial Cruise New Zealand executive officer, Raewyn Tan, said it was “important to remember that cruise lines are not a charity”.
Tourism Hawke’s Bay general manager Annie Dundas said Napier was “lucky to have the cruises” and needed to look after the industry.
Cruise liners wanted to sell as much on-shore tourism product from on-board as it could.
In her editorial, Tan said a liner’s income from shore excursions “needs to be at or more than port costs. If shore excursions revenue is undermined due to independent selling, those ports in red become more dispensable on the cutting board of itinerary planners”.
Dundas said it was important to keep the cruise lines “happy”.
“It’s all about their margin. We are at the whim of the cruise lines, if [their books] don’t balance they’ll go elsewhere.”
She said it was difficult to know how much of the port’s popularity drop was due to independent selling or poor visitor experience generally, as the weather last season had also meant a difficult year.
Rough seas stopped about seven ships from docking, which meant passengers would have given Napier no or a poor rating “even though we did not do anything wrong”.
It was also a fact, Dundas said, that a growing number of cruise ship passengers were “free independents”.
Rather than book through a ship’s system, they preferred to investigate using the internet, or wait until they reached a destination to decide what to do.
“[But] this is a bit of a wake-up call. We are beholden to the cruise lines for this income and it is a tap that can be turned off.”