Canterbury’s busy cruise season gets underway tomorrow (Wednesday 12 October) with the first of 80 ships arriving in picturesque Akaroa harbour, bringing the promise of a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry.
Akaroa will be the main port of call for cruise ships visiting Canterbury this season and the local community is pulling out all the stops to make sure that disembarking passengers get a warm welcome.
"We’re delighted by the way the Akaroa community has embraced the opportunities presented by the shift of visiting cruise ships from Lyttelton to Akaroa and confident they’re going to give our visitors a great first impression of the region," says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.
"The township will host tens of thousands of cruise ship passengers over the coming months so it is going to be an extremely busy time for the shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants, but they’ve been busy preparing for the influx and they’re rearing to go."
In anticipation of the cruise ship season starting the Canterbury Tourism Partnership and Akaroa District Promotions have put extra funding into boosting visitor services in the area.
A portable cabin has been set up at the wharf as a make-shift visitor centre and extra copies of the Akaroa Visitor Guide and the Akaroa Town Map have been printed. Akaroa’s Town Crier will greet all arriving cruise ships and roving ambassadors will be on the streets to help visitors find their way.
Extra signage has been erected in the township and the streets festooned with ribbons. Street entertainers will perform on the days cruise ships are in town and a free shuttle will take passengers from the Akaroa bakery to the Akaroa Information Centre.
The Christchurch City Council has upgraded the Akaroa wharf so that two tenders can now berth simultaneously and it has also spent money upgrading the town’s public facilities.
"A lot of planning and hard work has gone into getting Akaroa ready for its new starring role and we’re really looking forward to welcoming the passengers from the Sea Princess on Wednesday. This is going to be the first of many large passenger ship visits to Akaroa this season and we want each occasion to be special," Mr Hunter says.
"Cruise visitors will be the lifeblood of our tourism economy this year because they don't need accommodation but still want to enjoy activities, our amazing scenery and shopping, so the start of the cruise ship season on Wednesday is definitely cause for celebration."