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Big Cruising Business And What Fiji Gets From It

There was a time when taking a holiday on a cruise ship was a bit down market and the people who made up the market were the over fifties. They
06 Feb 2016 08:30
Big Cruising Business And What Fiji Gets From It

There was a time when taking a holiday on a cruise ship was a bit down market and the people who made up the market were the over fifties.

They would sit around all day, taking the occasional dip in the on board pool (if indeed there was a pool on board) eat lots of food and play board games with fellow passengers.

Every time they reached a port they would all get off and wander around town soaking up the foreign culture. But times have changed in the cruising business.

Probably the biggest driver for the change was that the cruise companies started to commission the building of ships specifically for the cruising market.

The ships were fitted out to enhance the experience and with many different places to go and spend time while at sea, so there is no longer a feeling of being trapped inside a big steel shell .

The older cruise ships were really what had previously long range passenger ships that moved people across great distances of sea.

The arrival of the long-haul passenger jets made the transport of people by sea very much a thing to avoid.

But the owners, while doing a minimum of conversion to provide entertainment areas, did little to change the look and feel of the vessels.

 

The vessel built

The purpose built vessels were quite different.

They were designed to have an open, airy environment, with large windows looking out over the sea, very efficient air conditioning, many separated areas where the passengers could meet, sit and talk while enjoying the view.

There were also a choice of a number of dining rooms and cafes serving a good variety of food choices, small intimate bars, big entertainment areas, movie theatres, games rooms, and all sorts of services to excite and pamper the passengers.

In fact, these days the ship is in itself the reason to cruise and for many people the destinations are secondary.

Although the cruising industry has turned that around. In the old days the cruise basically went to the Caribbean, now the experiences on offer are exciting.

You can see Alaska and the ice bergs; go up the Amazon or down the Nile, the Rhine or the Yangtze. You can even cruise the Antarctic (and get stuck in the ice for weeks).

There are cruises where you can learn things-gourmet cooking, music, art, dancing, of the classic subjects.

The choices are vast, and there are many Fly-cruise offerings where you fly tom the start of the interesting part of the cruise.

 

Our industry here

Fiji is benefiting from this new concept in cruising as well as several other South Pacific destinations.

In 2016, it is projected that some 75 cruise ships will visit at least one Fiji port.

The main cruising port is Denarau, mainly because of the usually excellent weather and the significant number of tourism experiences on offer in the area.

Denarau is not the ideal port because there is no large wharf infrastructure and passengers have to be taken back and forwards from the ship in small boats, but the outstanding environment overcomes this drawback.

There are also a significant number of cruise liners that visit Suva, and some cruises that visit other ports such as Savusavu.

Each cruise vessel carries an average of two thousand passengers (plus, of course, significant numbers of crew) so cruising represents a large number of tourists who enter Fiji in a year.

 

Questions on real value

But within the Fiji tourism industry there are questions about the real value of the cruise market to the country.

Mostly the ships arrive very early in the morning, the passengers have breakfast on board and then disembark, but generally most of them have a pre-booked tour bus waiting to whisk them away to selected smaller destinations.

They eat a provided lunch (included in the price of the tour, buy some souvenirs in the countryside and are bought back in the afternoon to the place where they again join the ship.

They board, have a few drinks and eat dinner while the vessel makes its way to the next stop.

Typically, most of the tours are booked at the time they book the cruise, or there are representatives on board who will book your land based excursions for you before you get to the destination.

 

The concern then

This is all very neat and efficient, but a lot of the money stays with the agents and never arrives in Fiji, so it doesn’t all get into the Fiji economy.

While a lot of people in the industry complain there are very few alternatives offered.

There are also concerns that the cruise passengers overload the places they visit and the resident tourists come back to their resorts complaining that they could not take full advantage of the day.

It is said that because the operators of the facilities know that the cruise passengers are here for the day only they tend to overbook.

 

Significant returns still

Whatever the issues, the cruise business is now so large and provides a significant return to the Fijian economy that efforts to attract them to the country will continue.

And with larger ships coming onto the routes and the growth shown in the sector in the last five years the sector will definitely grow.

There is good money to be made here in Fiji and there needs to be better planning and development, particularly in the facilities area.

nJohn Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.com



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