by Alexia Johnston

South Canterbury will need to continue differentiating itself from other New Zealand locations if it wants to build on its reputation as a cruise ship destination, a leading expert says.
Cruise ships Europa 2, MS Maasdam and Seabourn Encorebrought a combined 2350 people to Timaru between January 12 and February 12. Just one of those ships is scheduled for a return visit next season.
No cruise ships docked in the Port of Timaru last year, two visited in 2015, five in 2014 and four in 2013.
Cruise New Zealand executive officer Kevin O’Sullivan said while next season’s schedule had only one ship, Seabourn Encore, confirmed to make two return visits, more cruises could be added to the calendar over the coming months.
“These things do take a little bit of time. They don’t necessarily get scheduled this far out,” he said.
“Because there’s three this year and only two next year, it doesn’t mean it’s forgotten. It just means it’s going to take time to develop.”
To do that, Mr O’Sullivan was encouraging the people of South Canterbury to build on what made the district different from other destinations, similar to what had been achieved in Oamaru.
“Oamaru developed steampunk and it’s been quite a way of differentiating itself.
“I’m not saying Timaru has to follow it, but [Timaru has] got some really good attractions.”
Mr O’Sullivan said one highlight for passengers in January this year was a performance played on what is believed to be the longest piano in the world at 5.7m. The performance took place in St Mary’s Church, Timaru, and hundreds of people visited the church that day.
Overall, Mr O’Sullivan said cruise ship visits to Timaru had been “very positive”.
He credited the local people for working hard to make Timaru’s cruise ship stays successful and, as a former Timaru resident, hoped they could continue to build on that.
Timaru District Council group manager for community services Sharon Taylor said cruise ship visitors had found people in the district to be friendly and the towns to be beautiful and clean.
“We are committed to growing tourism in our district across the board as we live in a totally awesome place and we want to share that.”
A study by Cruise New Zealand in 2013 found the value to Timaru based on three cruise ship visits was more than $700,000 – with each having an indicative value of $200,000 to $250,000, former Aoraki Development Business and Tourism chief executive Wendy Smith said in an earlier report.

Cruise ship visitors
Timaru this year
Europa 2, January12: 500 passengers
MS Maasdam, January23: 1250 passengers
Seabourn Encore, February12: 600 passengers

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