Akaroa has no intention of giving up its cruise business when Lyttelton builds its $56 million new berth.
The Banks Peninsula town has been hosting up to 70 cruise ships each summer after taking over from damaged Lyttelton as Canterbury’s cruise port after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Akaroa District Promotions Society spokeswoman Hollie Hollander said the town was an ideal boutique stop and would complement Lyttelton’s new cruise terminal when it opened in late 2019.
“We’ve rated very highly in cruise surveys and what passengers say has an impact on where cruise ships go. So we won’t be totally off the itinerary,” Hollander said.
READ MORE: New $56 million cruise ship berth for the Port of Lyttelton
“We hope we can retain some of the smaller ships with high-spenders. For us, it would be about quality and not quantity.”
She also expected that Lyttelton-bound ships would run day-trips to Akaroa once the new Lyttelton terminal opened.
Hollander said the way Akaroa had risen to the challenge of handling big cruise numbers showed what the town could do. Akaroa had hosted up to a dozen cruise ships a year before the earthquakes.
With a permanent population of about 650, the small town has had more than six times that number arrive on one ship, as happened when the 4280-passenger Emerald Princess made several visits in summer 2016-17. Some days saw two or three cruise ships anchor in the harbour.
The big number of visitors to Akaroa has created some problems for the town, including a shortage of amenities such as toilets, a cheapening of some tourist offerings leading to the nickname “Tack-aroa” and the difficulty accommodating passengers stranded onshore if bad weather prevented tendering back to ships.
Mega-liners, such as the 6500-passenger Ovation of the Seas, were too big for the harbour and skipped Canterbury altogether during recent New Zealand visits.
Paul Milligan, chief executive of Black Cat Group that runs catamaran tours of Akaroa Harbour, said Monday’s announcement about Lyttelton’s new berth gave businesses a definite timeline.
“This wasn’t unexpected, it was just a question of when. It gives everyone certainty – everyone can get their heads around getting fewer cruises.
“It won’t mean the end of cruise ships and I don’t think the drop-off will be anything Akaroa can’t handle.”
Milligan said the next two years would give the Black Cat Group time to expand their Lyttelton operation as they were looking for a new base there.
“But those small Akaroa businesses, which have survived and thrived with the cruises coming, it will be interesting to see how that plays out”.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the cruise-ship boom had put “tremendous pressure” on Akaroa and the town’s response had enabled the city to stay connected to the cruise industry.
“This announcement will bring some relief to them.”