The upcoming cruise season 2019-2020 for Bluff NZ and Stewart Island NZ runs between November 2019 and April 2020, with a total of 28 scheduled ship calls and estimated 11,000 tourists. According to Environment Southland Harbourmaster Lyndon Cleaver, Southland is the 2nd largest region for the number of cruise liners next to Auckland but gets "the least amount of economic benefit."
Most vessels currently visit Fiordland NP but don't dock in a place where travelers can get off the cruise ship and spend money. 5 cruise ships are due to dock in Bluff, while Stewart Island will handle 23 ships (18 in 2018-2019). Numbers vary for Fiordland ships but are increasing with 131 scheduled ship calls this season.
According to Bluff Community Board member Graham Laidlaw, having 5 cruise ships arrive in Bluff was exciting for the businesses and community. Art galleries, cafes, and pubs would be of automatic benefit but work needed to be done to provide more attractions. Currently there were about 60,000 people who visit Bluff signpost, take a photo and leave, he said. The goal was to get people to stop in the port town and actually spend money.
According to Stewart Island Community Board member Gordon Leask, cruise visitors put a strain on infrastructure but provided short-term benefit via the visitor levy. Cruise visitors did not spend a lot of money as they did not need accommodation and might only buy a coffee, but the 5 dollars per person from the levy provided a considerable amount of money towards back into the community, Leask said.
A meeting is scheduled to be held on Stewart Island on October 31, 2019, and in Bluff on November 1, 2019, to discuss the opportunities and management of increasing cruise ship numbers.