In a blow to the Dunedin cruise-ship industry, the company behind the large ships which visit the country has pulled out of its Australasian commitments next season, at an estimated loss of $6.5 million to the city’s economy.
Celebrity Cruises, the company which owns the 2038-passenger Celebrity Millennium, has cut Australia and New Zealand from its 2009-10 itinerary, choosing to focus on northern hemisphere destinations.
High fuel costs and high airfare costs for passengers were reasons for the cancellations, chief executive Dan Hanrahan said.
“Australia and New Zealand are charming and beautiful destinations, and we’re confident we’ll return again as our brand and fleet grows.”
Passengers holding reservations are being encouraged to travel on board the Celebrity Millennium this year to Australia and New Zealand, or opt for North American destinations in 2009-10.
Port Otago commercial general manager Peter Brown said the cancellation was a reflection of global economic conditions and “there is the potential for that impact to spread a little bit further”.
“This is a reaction to the current economic conditions.”
A new visitor to New Zealand ports this season, Celebrity Millennium was scheduled to visit Port Chalmers 11 times in 2009-10.
Preliminary bookings for 2009-10 had reduced from 52 to 41 following the cancellation, but it was hoped numbers would increase, he said.
According to an industry report compiled by Cruise New Zealand, the 2008-09 season of 65 cruise ship visits would be worth $19 million to the local economy.
Cruise NZ chairman Craig Harris, of Auckland, said the news came as a blow to the industry, which has experienced 7% growth for each of the past 15 years.
“We are starting to see the impact of the financial crisis. The companies are happy with New Zealand as a destination, but the cost of fuel and the cost to fly here is proving to be expensive.”
Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said it was disappointing Celebrity Millennium was cancelling its voyages, with Dunedin accounting for 11 of the 67 port visits.
“Cruise [the industry] is to be regarded as the cream on top and any loss is disappointing.”
With the economic downturn already impacting on Americans travelling to long-haul destinations, Australia was shaping up as an increasingly important market for the cruise industry, he said.
“The cruise industry is incredibly important.
If it was a country by itself, it would rank just behind Japan in terms of visitor arrivals.”