Regional cruise strategy has growth and sustainability as focus

In a significant step forward for Taranaki’s burgeoning cruise tourism industry, a comprehensive Taranaki Cruise Strategy has been developed to ensure there is a coordinated, region-wide approach to sustainably grow the business in the region.

And the strategy has a lofty five-year target – 28 cruise vessel visits in 2028.

“We’re calling it ‘28 for 28’. It’s ambitious, but we’ve got a record seven cruise ship visits in 2023-24, our region’s reputation is building, and we believe Taranaki has plenty to offer international visitors who are looking for a unique and memorable experience,” Port Taranaki general manager commercial Ross Dingle said.

The Taranaki Cruise Strategy was developed by Te Puna Umanga Venture Taranaki in partnership with Port Taranaki, iwi and hapū, New Plymouth District Council, New Plymouth iSite, Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, Puke Ariki, tourism operators, and the Department of Conservation.

Former Tourism New Zealand director of marketing Tony Rogers drafted the strategy following input from 27 participants, and a steering group has been formed to guide the development of the strategy and its ongoing implementation.

The Taranaki Cruise Strategy mission is to “proactively attract and serve high-quality cruise visitors seeking new and different experiences in a uniquely Taranaki way”.

It has four strategic priorities – improve cruise capability, develop relevant product, proactively attract cruise ships, and ensure cohesive planning and action.

“We believe that through acting on this five-year strategy and having a region-wide, coordinated approach, we can develop our vision of a high-value cruise tourism offering that’s sustainable, consistent, respects the environment, boosts the economy, adds vibrancy to the community and nurtures cultural enrichment,” Te Puna Umanga Venture Taranaki general manager destination Brylee Flutey said.

“We want to ensure our tourism, retail and hospitality businesses benefit, the community is involved, and we bring the public along with us so that the cruise industry is regarded as beneficial to our region.”

Mr Dingle said Port Taranaki had the ability to cater for increased cruise vessel numbers.

“As we’re relatively new to cruise in Taranaki, we have an opportunity to grow the business in a sustainable way, with a focus on smaller premium upper-end, luxury and expedition-type cruise ships, and preservation of the environment – the sea and harbour, and our parks and natural areas,” he said.

Ngāti Te Whiti hapū has been involved in the development of the strategy and is a member of the steering committee.

 Chairperson Julie Healey said the hapū was supportive of the sustainable growth of the cruise industry in Taranaki.

 “We tautoko what Port Taranaki and Venture Taranaki are doing to bring cruise vessels to the region. It gives opportunities for Ngāti Te Whiti and tangata whenua to showcase our rohe, Ngāmotu, and history to the world, and to share our stories with visitors,” she said.

 “At the same time, growing it sustainably recognises the need to preserve the environment and keep our waters clean so hapū can continue to gather kaimoana and fish off Ngāmotu, as our ancestors have done for generations.”

 Supporting the strategy, Port Taranaki and Venture Taranaki are actively engaging with the cruise sector, recently attending the New Zealand Cruise Association annual conference in Christchurch to meet with cruise line representatives and distribute a high-quality brochure promoting the port, region and visitor experiences.

 “There’s a lot of interest in Taranaki from cruise lines because we’re new and different,” Mr Dingle said. “The strategy acts as a guide in support of the development of new and unique products and experiences so that passengers leave happy, cruise lines want to return, and new cruise lines want to include Taranaki on their itineraries.”

 Ms Flutey said global trends show cruise is a fast-growing tourism channel for New Zealand, representing more than $500 million to the New Zealand economy annually, and a potential $10.5 million a year for Taranaki.

 “There are also so many positive community benefits to be realised, including job security, story-telling and the opportunity to share authentic stories with manuhiri [visitors], as well as the potential to highlight our unique biodiversity and the mahi we’re doing to preserve our place.

 “Furthermore, it serves as an ideal platform to showcase our region’s rich history of innovative food production. This has the potential to facilitate on-ship food procurement and generate added value through both direct and indirect spending,” she said.

 “The cruise sector can foster the development of new and captivating experiences for visitors and serves as a powerful promotional tool for positioning Taranaki as a sought-after destination.”

 Seven cruise ships are scheduled to visit Taranaki during the 2023-24 summer season, with the first, the Noordam, arriving on Sunday, 17 December.