South Pacific cruising a growth industry

THE South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Pacific Cruise Alliance (SPCA) for greater cooperation on the development of the cruise tourism industry in the greater Pacific Islands region, according to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau.

SPCA is a private and public sector cruise alliance made up of members from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa and Tonga.

The SPTO aims to collaborate with key cruise industry partners, government and private sector members such as SPCA to open up opportunities for existing and new cruise destinations in the Pacific and better coordinate priority areas of marketing and development under the Pacific Cruise Tourism Development Strategy (2015 – 2019), for the benefit of its members.

Said to be the peak mandated body for tourism development and marketing in 16 Pacific Island Countries, the SPTO will work with its Pacific Islands member governments towards creating enabling environments for the further development of cruise tourism industries.

The American Samoa Visitors Bureau said that the Pacific cruise traffic has grown by 43 per cent in the last three years and currently generates around US$640 million per year for the region. New Caledonia and Vanuatu lead the charge, making up 78 per cent of the total number of cruise visits in the South Pacific.

American Samoa will have three cruise calls in April. The Noordam will be in Pago Pago Harbor on April 16 and both the Emerald and Sea Princess on April 22. While having two ships visit on one day is becoming an annual event in American Samoa, the visit by the Emerald and Sea Princess ships will be a record with over 8,100 passengers and crew.

The latest available figures (2015) show of the 799 calls in the region, New Caledonia had 429, Vanuatu 256 and Fiji 115.

Cruise tourism is described as an emerging industry in other Pacific Island countries like Tonga, where the Vuna Port in Nuku’alofa has recently undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade and is attracting more visiting cruise vessels.

Samoa is gearing towards further improvements to the Apia wharf and French Polynesia plans to build a new cruise port terminal by 2020. Small island states such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, which currently receive one or two visiting cruise ships a year, would benefit from the development of expedition segment of the cruise market, involving smaller cruise ships.

Cruise ships are said to bring a much-needed source of additional employment and income to remote communities by linking travellers to outer islands that are not as easily accessed by air. Further, the cruise tourism sector presents opportunities for greater labour mobility in the Pacific, according to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau.

– Cruise News