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Hawke’s Bay cruise ship season 2023: No Stats NZ data for biggest ever

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It will likely be Hawke’s Bay’s biggest cruise season ever thanks to a new wharf and Napier’s first-ever triple ship days, but there will be no Stats NZ data published to show it.

More than 130,000 cruise visitors are expected to call at Napier Port between November 2023 and April 2024.

However, the final visitor numbers and their spending will remain a mystery this year, as Stats NZ has confirmed it will not publish its cruise ship traveller and expenditure statistics.

Stats NZ has not released the data for the past three years due to Covid-19 border restrictions in 2021 and 2022.

The data for the year ended June 2023 was not released due to Stat NZ undergoing a “prioritisation process” according to its website.

“The future of the cruise statistics is among the other work programmes in the economic statistics suite being evaluated.”

A Stats NZ spokeswoman said the data was produced for four years pre-Covid, but Stats NZ was not funded by the industry or government to do the work on cruise statistics.

A Hawke’s Bay Tourism spokeswoman said the region was anticipating its biggest-ever cruise season.

“At the start of the 23/24 season, the schedule had 92 cruise calls booked to Napier during the season (November to April), including 18 double days (two cruise vessels in port at the same time) and two triple days,” the spokeswoman said.

“Triple days are only now a possibility due to last year’s opening of 6 Wharf – Te Whiti”

Ovation of the Seas in Napier Port late November. More than 130,000 cruise visitors are expected to call at Napier Port between November 2023 and April 2024. Photo / Warren Buckland
Ovation of the Seas in Napier Port late November. More than 130,000 cruise visitors are expected to call at Napier Port between November 2023 and April 2024. Photo / Warren Buckland

There was $175 million invested into the 350m wharf, built over two years from February 2020, just before the pandemic.

Steve Holyer, co-owner of Napier store Adore Collection, said it was shaping up to be a great season, barring another disaster like Cyclone Gabrielle.

He said travellers in general were interested in supporting local businesses by buying items that were designed locally or that had “a story to it”.

“The economic downturn that seems to be in our news doesn’t seem to be impacting those people who are travelling,” Holyer said.

He said 51 per cent of the people on the cruise ships were Australian, but he had noticed a lot more European and French-speaking travellers recently.

“Different places have their holidays differently, so the Asian market has their holiday in January and February after the New Year so we will notice a bigger Asian influence then,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of people from Noumea, New Caledonia, French-speaking Pacific islands because it is too hot there, so it is a pretty good mix.”

He said that a lot of retailers’ analytics were more advanced than before thanks to retail accounting software like Xero and networking through Retail NZ, so they didn’t need to rely on Stats NZ data to give context to how they were performing.

On December 16, the National Aquarium’s cafe sales were 97 per cent higher, and retail sales were 122 per cent higher than the next non-cruise ship day. Photo / NZME
On December 16, the National Aquarium’s cafe sales were 97 per cent higher, and retail sales were 122 per cent higher than the next non-cruise ship day. Photo / NZME

A Napier City Council spokeswoman said in a statement the number of visitors to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, Par2 MiniGolf, and isite to date this cruise season was similar to last year despite the season beginning in November, a month later than in 2022.

“The National Aquarium has had well over 2000 visitors so far,” she said.

The spokeswoman said retail spending and foot traffic at council facilities both tended to rise on cruise ship days.

“For example, on Saturday, December 16 when the Ovation of the Seas and the Viking Orion were in port, the National Aquarium’s cafe sales were 97 per cent higher, and retail sales 122 per cent higher than the next non-ship day,” she said.

“Par2 and the isite were also busy. On Saturday, there was a 51 per cent increase in players at Par2, and turnover rose 94 per cent. The number of people through the isite’s doors rose by 106 per cent, and turnover by 140 per cent.”

Steve Gregory, NCC manager of business and tourism, said the rest of summer is shaping up to be even busier than it has been to date.

“All these visitors contribute to the buzz and the overall vibrancy of our city. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our community to showcase Napier and send them home with great memories.”

Isite manager Jane Libby earlier told Hawke’s Bay Today cruise visitors this season were expected to spend around $35m in the region.

In comparison with the 92 ships this season, the 22/23 season had 89 ships booked to visit Napier Port and some were cancelled due to Cyclone Gabrielle.

There were 70 cruise calls scheduled for the 18/19 season and 87 cruise ships scheduled to call for the 2019/2020 season before the Covid-19 pandemic.

James Pocock joined Hawke’s Bay Today in 2021 and writes breaking news and features, with a focus on environment, local government and post-cyclone issues in the region. He has a keen interest in finding the bigger picture in research and making it more accessible to audiences. He lives in Napier. james.pocock@nzme.co.nz



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