26 Dec 2018

Discussions underway to attract more cruise ships to Bluff port

9:13 am on 26 December 2018

A Southland port is being eyed as a potential hub for cruise ships to visit.

Milford Sound.

A cruise ship in Milford Sound. The proximity of Bluff to Fiordland, agritourism in Southland, the Catlins and other attractions makes it a prime position. Photo: 123RF

Venture Southland and South Port have already started discussions with the industry about whether the port would be in a good place to attract more cruise ships.

Last year, there were only a few incidental drop-ins. But this cruise season, four ships have already made plans to visit Bluff.

While Venture Southland tourism and events manager Warrick Low said it was early days, he was confident the industry could create huge opportunities for the region.

"It's another route to bring people in, to expose the community and bring benefits to the community," Mr Low said.

"For Southland it is an opportunity, if permitted, to have another channel to protect our environment, protect our culture and hopefully bring in a bit of cash to have some jobs for livelihood as well.

"A cruise is like an event, it brings in business quickly, takes it away quickly, but it's a way to build a bit of a resilience or an alternative market."

However, Mr Low said it could showcase Southland and help it build its reputation as a destination.

"The cruise sector is pretty diverse. There are the very big vessels that have a lot of spend on the boat. But perhaps where Southland will fit is more about the expeditionary ones where they want to get off the boat and they want to get immersive experiences."

The proximity of Bluff to Fiordland, agritourism in Southland, the Catlins and other attractions made it a prime position, he said.

Bluffs' location has already played a significant factor in attracting the specialised heritage cruises that head down towards Antarctica.

"The tourism growth that's occurred around New Zealand and forecast going forward, it's not just about promoters like us, it's about the community and the community has to be on board."

South Port chief executive Nigel Gear said a regional approach needed to be taken so different stakeholders, including the community, could have their say on how to attract more passengers onto the shore.

It was still in the early planning stages as a business case needed to be created and required infrastructure had to be assessed, Mr Gear said.

"None of its impossible, it's all doable."

The channel has a maximum draught of 9.7m at high tide.

"We could probably get about 75 percent of the vessel types into Bluff," Mr Gear said.

There were more than 100 cruise ships that were calling in at Fiordland before heading around the coast, he said.

"My understanding is that cruise parties are looking for different types of experiences and they're looking for different alternatives than what they are currently getting from the usual tour or the usual route," Mr Gear said.

"When you thinking of clean and green, Southland is pretty much exactly that ... if people come to Southland, they're going to have a good experience even though you've got great access to a lot of areas."

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