The return of cruise liners to New Zealand ports has been heralded with celebrations in Auckland harbour today.
The Pacific Explorer docked at Queens Wharf at around 9am, becoming the first cruise liner arrival since New Zealand’s maritime border opened at midnight on 31 July.
Mayor, Phil Goff says the return of international visitors was great news for the city.
“The lockdowns and border closures, while necessary to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, have had a significant impact on businesses throughout Auckland, particularly in the city centre,” the Mayor said.
“The return of cruise ships bringing international visitors will provide a welcome economic boost to affected businesses, particularly in the hospitality and accommodation sectors. It will also help enhance the vibrancy of our city with more people shopping, dining and spending time in our rejuvenated downtown.
“Returning visitors will be able to enjoy the significant upgrades we have completed in our city centre over the past two years, such as Te Komititanga, the public square outside Commercial Bay; the upgraded Quay Street and new harbourfront park, the improved Karangahape Road, and more.
“Despite the impact of the pandemic, Auckland is becoming a truly world-class, vibrant and people-friendly place to visit, and I’m pleased to welcome passengers on the Pacific Explorer to our city.”
Pam Ford, Director of Investment and Industry at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited said the return of cruise liners would bring much needed spend and vibrancy back to central Auckland.
“This is great news for central city businesses and tourism operators,” she said.
Ms Ford said the city’s business centre has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“Prior to the pandemic, 20% of spending in the city centre stemmed from international visitors, and many of the 140,000 workers are still working from home.”
“Expenditure from cruise ships coming into Auckland more than doubled between 2015 and 2020, tipping over $200 million in the year ended June 2020; and two thirds of expenditure comes directly from cruise ship visitors benefitting local businesses.”
Auckland’s Sky Tower was lit up overnight in anticipation of the Pacific Explorer’s arrival.
Tātaki Auckland Unlimited also coordinated volunteers to welcome and help direct disembarking passengers to ensure they make the most of their time in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Ports of Auckland Chief Executive Roger Gray says the whole team – including Sparky, the world’s first e-tug boat who offered a water salute to the cruise liner – was excited to welcome back the cruise industry.
“The Ports of Auckland team is excited to welcome the first cruise ship back to Auckland on August 12 and we’re working with our partners and the cruise line to ensure a great Auckland experience for passengers,” said Mr Gray.
“It’s been in a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, but we are ready, and look forward to more cruise visits this summer and the resumption of a thriving cruise industry.”
More than 100 ships are scheduled to arrive in Aotearoa before the end of March 2023.