The Fiji Times » Return to cruise – First cruise ship visits since pandemic

There was a growing wave of excitement in the air earlier this week at one of our major seaports. A part of long lost industry was coming back to our shores and we were delighted to welcome it home.

P&O Cruises Australia’s flagship Pacific Explorer brought her 830 crew and 1,147 passengers safely to Lautoka Port and closed it two and a half years out of the Pacific.

Not only is the Pacific Explorer the first cruise liner to visit Fiji since the pandemic, but it was also making headlines as the first to return to the entire Pacific region.

Cruise tourism was the industry’s first major casualty of the COVID-induced lockdowns as cruise liners were determined to be a dish of Petrie virus that could infect large numbers of passengers in a confined space , close to each other most of the time and delayed. COVID-19 incubation period for days.

We all remember the early days of the pandemic when there were at least 10 ships around the world, carrying nearly 10,000 passengers, still stranded at sea after being turned away from their destination ports in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19, according to a Guardian analysis.

Some of these ships faced increasingly desperate medical situations, and the world waited anxiously to see what would happen.

There have been countless dramatic scenes from COVID-stricken cruises like the Grand Princess and the Diamond Princess that have quickly become synonymous with the pandemic and cast a negative light on cruise ships in general.

The fate of those passengers and crew still stuck on board has highlighted how cruise ships have become pariahs of the sea, with cities fearful of becoming the next home of a potentially infected vessel.

But then everything shifted gears and the world shifted its focus as it inevitably does (while keeping a wary eye on cruise ships), but many banned long-term cruise ships, with demands stringent for even smaller vessels to land and even travel between ports.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) report highlights some interesting findings from their “Economic Impact Assessment of Cruise Tourism in Fiji” (October 2019). This was the last comprehensive survey of cruise tourism in Fiji before lockdowns and border closures.

The study found that cruise lines, their passengers and crew spent $44.2 million in Fiji in 2018, which was 0.66% of Fiji’s GDP for that year.

IFC estimated that the impact of the indirect stimulus was F$46.6 million and that the indirect stimulus resulted from local businesses using cash flow received from the cruise ship business to purchase to carry out their business activities.

For every dollar spent by the cruise ship industry, an additional $1.10 is generated in the economy, signaling a strong supply chain effect in Fiji.

Private companies received 70% of the total economic impact (direct and indirect) and the Fijian government received 28% of the total economic impact (direct and indirect).

These businesses are generally the 3 major retail chains located in the 2 major cities of Fiji and to a lesser extent taxis, tour operators and craft vendors who cater to passengers who might choose to disembark during a few hours on the 10-12. hours during which the ship is moored in one or another of the city’s ports.

Entertainers such as musicians and dancers, restaurants and tours make up the array of supply chains adding value to visitors cruising the shores of Fiji. Prior to COVID, the cruise industry was estimated to generate up to 4,593 full-time employment opportunities.

This estimate would have changed due to the many tourism workers who have since left our shores for overseas exposure or taken up other industry work, and it is unclear whether this included staff ports, immigration, customs and administrative staff who deal with the general management of ships in a port that monitors international cargo and passenger transportation needs.

IFC has estimated that each cruise ship trip brings in an average of F$305,000 in spending per port of call and that a cruise ship passenger spends about F$90 each.

On average, cruise passengers spend F$118 in Lautoka, followed by F$104 in Suva, and when they stop in Denarau or Savusavu, they then spend F$102 and F$56 respectively per disembarking passenger.

It is unclear how much is spent on stopovers in outer islands like Kadavu. Of the high number of cruise ship calls received by the Port of Suva (40%), it receives 44% of all direct spend in Fiji, while Lautoka (24% of calls) receives 31% of direct spend.

If we consider that these 2 main ports also mainly accommodate cargo ships within the framework of the many ships at the quay; port tariffs and disembarkation rates are relatively high.

The survey found a strong positive correlation between passenger satisfaction and spending: the more satisfied passengers are with the variety of things to see, do and buy, meaning the longer they stay ashore, the more spend.

It should be noted that only a small percentage of the total number of passengers on board actually disembark, having fully paid for the cruise which includes all meals.

Among those surveyed, the highest rated port in Fiji for customer satisfaction was Port Denarau Marina, with its many restaurants, bars, accessibility to day trips and other sightseeing excursions, and shopping options.

This makes sense, given that the survey also noted that Fiji did not have enough spending opportunities for short-term visits, with 24% of passengers saying they had not spent at all, and 47% citing that their spending expectations were not enough. meet.

This should be a concern for tourism stakeholders looking to make cruise tourism a more substantial contributor to overall tourism revenue.

Yachting’s contribution to tourism, for example, is $61 million per year with approximately 4,470 passengers entering via yachts on an annual basis (pre-COVID), staying longer, spending more (an average of $7,800 per passenger ) and visiting outside of tourism hotspots where that much-needed tourism revenue goes further into local communities.

Handicrafts, clothing, tours and excursions, and food and drink present the best opportunities to capitalize on unmet spending needs.

We could also raise the standard of cruise ship arrival and departure areas for our major ports, apart from meeting minimum draft, mooring and sailing lane requirements for cruise ships. cruise ; we also provide passenger cruise terminals.

These could have provisions for various spaces including covered aprons, terminals that could handle efficient ground transportation for connectivity
to the city, parking and public transport.

These would encourage more passengers to disembark, facilitate accessibility for passengers with reduced mobility and provide a more inviting welcome or farewell space.

There are certainly more economic benefits (including direct and indirect) estimated at around F$90 million over 10 years, which have been identified through the priority investments outlined in the IFC report.

These opportunities aim to enhance cruise experiences and provide businesses and individuals in Fiji with greater access to the cruise market.

We certainly welcome the return of cruise tourism to Fiji and wish them calm seas and favorable winds, while hoping that we can encourage more passengers to disembark and enjoy our Fijian hospitality.

  • FANTASHA LOCKINGTON is the CEO of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association. The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the opinions of this document.