The first cruise ship in two and a half years will today receive a warm welcome to Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland including a tugboat water salute, special offers from downtown businesses, and more.

Mayor Phil Goff says it will be great for Auckland to have tourists and international visitors back in the city.

“The lockdowns and border closures, while necessary to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, have had a significant impact on businesses throughout Auckland, particularly in the city centre,” he says.

“The return of cruise ships bringing international visitors will provide a welcome economic boost to affected businesses, particularly in the hospitality and accommodation sectors. It will also help enhance the vibrancy of our city with more people shopping, dining and spending time in our rejuvenated downtown.

“Returning visitors will be able to enjoy the significant upgrades we have completed in our city centre over the past two years, such as Te Komititanga, the public square outside Commercial Bay; the upgraded Quay Street and new harbourfront park, the improved Karangahape Road, and more.

“Despite the impact of the pandemic, Auckland is becoming a truly world-class, vibrant and people-friendly place to visit, and I’m pleased to welcome passengers on the Pacific Explorer to our city.”

Welcome return of international visitor spend:

Pam Ford, Director of Investment and Industry at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited says, “It’s exciting to be welcoming cruise ships back to Tāmaki Makaurau and extending our manaakitanga to international manuhiri who will bring much needed spend and vibrancy back to central Auckland. This is great news for central city businesses and tourism operators”

Ford says the city centre has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and business and tourism operators welcome international tourists returning. 

“Prior to the pandemic, 20 per cent of spending in the city centre stemmed from international visitors, and many of the 140,000 workers are still working from home.”

“Expenditure from cruise ships coming into Auckland more than doubled between 2015 and 2020, tipping over $200 million in the year ended June 2020; and two thirds of expenditure comes directly from cruise ship visitors benefitting local businesses.”

A warm welcome to the first ship:

The Pacific Explorer will dock at Queens Wharf at approximately 9am, becoming the first arrival since the new Zealand’s maritime border opened at 11.59pm on 31 July 2022.

“We have been coordinating with industry, central city businesses and across Auckland Council to offer a warm welcome for the ship and passengers this Friday, and for the summer season ahead,” says Ford. 

The Sky Tower was lit in anticipation overnight, and the city centre welcome includes free coffee for all in Takutai Square thanks to Britomart Group and live music and Honest Chocolat goodies at Commercial Bay.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited has also coordinated volunteers to welcome and help direct passengers to ensure they make the most of their time in Tāmaki Makaurau. 

Ports of Auckland Chief Executive Roger Gray says the whole team – including Sparky, the world’s first e-tug boat – are excited to welcome back the cruise industry. “The Ports of Auckland team is excited to welcome the first cruise ship back to Auckland on August 12 and we’re working with our partners and the cruise line to ensure a great Auckland experience for passengers. It’s been in a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, but we are ready, and look forward to more cruise visits this summer and the resumption of a thriving cruise industry.”

A busy season ahead:

“The season proper will begin in October and the first summer season back is set to be busy with more than 100 ships scheduled until the end of March 2023, with further scheduled over the winter season too,” says Ford.

As New Zealand's primary exchange point, Auckland’s economy benefits from passengers staying longer in the region as they get on and off ships that are on ‘turnaround’, which is also when the ship is provisioned by local suppliers. Currently, there are 39 ports calls for Auckland that are ‘turnaround’ and 27 port calls when ships will stay overnight, offering passengers longer stays in the region to enjoy tourism, hospitality and retail opportunities.


Background information

Auckland port calls for October 2022– March 2023:

More than 100 ships
~ 180,000+ passenger capacity
39 turnarounds* and 27 port calls with ships staying overnight
Further ships scheduled for winter season 2023

Economic Impact:

  • A cruise passenger contributes to Auckland’s economy when they fly in to meet the ship, stay in accommodation before and after their cruise, disembark the ship to do activities locally, shop at downtown stores, or enjoy tours or excursions with local businesses.
  • Expenditure from cruise ships coming into Auckland more than doubled between 2015 and 2020.
  • Approximately 65 per cent of this spending is from cruise ship visitors[1], benefitting local Auckland tour companies and tourism attractions, city centre retailers, accommodation providers, among others.  [1] Based on national-level data from StatsNZ 
  • The 2019/2020 season (cut short by COVID-19), brought 112 ships and around 180,000 passengers to Auckland, contributing over $200 million in expenditure to the Auckland economy.
  • Prior to COVID-19, the Auckland cruise sector supported more than 3100 jobs – from provisioning of the ships with supplies of fresh produce, tourism jobs, to the jobs created in the retail sector on the goods and services they buy when they’re here. (note: from report by Market Economics for NZCA, for 2017-18 cruise season - the last available report.)
  • Auckland's city centre is the commercial capital of New Zealand. It contributed 19 per cent of Auckland's total GDP pre-pandemic.
  • Prior to the pandemic (2019), 20 per cent of spending in the city centre stemmed from international visitors. This was significantly higher than the rest of Auckland (3 per cent).
  • With many of the 140,000 people employed in the city centre working from home, as well as the loss of international tourists and students, consumer-oriented businesses that rely on city centre foot traffic have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Spending in the city centre was down over 35 per cent from April 2020 - February 2022 compared with the equivalent 22-month period pre-pandemic (i.e., April 2018 - Feb 2020). Across the rest of Auckland, spending was "only" down by 3.5 per cent. 
  • While there has been some recovery in recent months, city centre spending is still down by more than 20 per cent compared to 2019 levels and has plateaued in May and June. ​