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Cruise ship traveller statistics: June 2017

Since the early 2000s, the number of cruise ships visiting New Zealand has increased significantly. From 2017, Stats NZ is publishing statistics on the number and characteristics of cruise ship travellers, including passengers and crew, and region/port statistics.

Download the statistics in the Excel file in the 'Available files' box.

These new statistics complement the International travel and migration (ITM) statistics published by Stats NZ each month.

Publishing cruise-ship traveller statistics is part of a broader collaborative project on this growing tourism sub-sector with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA). This project includes compiling statistics on the spending of cruise ship travellers, which will be published as part of the Tourism Satellite Account on 13 December 2017.

Summary of key points

222,000 cruise ship passengers visited in June 2017 year

There were 192,000 passenger arrivals and 190,000 passenger departures by cruise ship in the year ended June 2017. This amounted to 222,000 unique passengers over the year, allowing for those who completed part of their journey into or out of New Zealand by air.

The unique passenger numbers were down 7 percent from 2016, but still 14 percent higher than in 2015. The fluctuations in numbers reflect both supply-side factors (eg availability of cruise ships) and demand-side factors (eg customer demand in different countries).

Figure 1 

“Winter cruises from New Zealand to the Pacific were down from last year,” NZCA Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Sullivan said. “This reflected fewer ships available”.

For every 100 passengers visiting New Zealand, another 43 people visited as crew of cruise ships in the June 2017 year. Many crew make multiple visits over the year, so the unique crew numbers totalled 35,000.

Figure 2

Nearly all passengers travelled during October–April

The cruise season is highly seasonal with nearly all passengers travelling during the October–April period. Peak visitor months were December–February, which is consistent with the summer peak in overall visitor numbers to New Zealand.

Figure 3

Half the passengers were from Australia

Australia was the largest source country for cruise ship passengers in the June 2017 year. Fifty percent of all unique cruise ship passengers were recorded as Australian citizens. Of the remaining passengers, United States citizens accounted for 18 percent of unique passengers, United Kingdom citizens for 9 percent, and New Zealand citizens for 7 percent. However, a passenger’s country of citizenship may not be the country where they live.

Figure 4

Median age of passengers was 65 years

Despite growth in numbers across most age groups between 2015 and 2017, three-quarters of cruise ship passengers were aged 50–79 years in 2017. The median age of cruise passengers was 65 years – half were younger than this age, and half were older.

For every 100 male passengers in 2017, there were 121 female passengers. The largest difference in male-female numbers was at ages 50–69 years, where there were 46,000 male passengers and 63,000 female passengers.

Figure 5

Most cruise ship passengers visited Auckland

Four of every five cruise ship passengers to New Zealand in 2017 visited Auckland. Roughly three-quarters visited Fiordland, Dunedin, and Wellington. Roughly two-thirds visited Tauranga and a Canterbury port (mainly Akaroa).

Visits to a port do not necessarily mean passengers disembarked and spent money locally. For example, most passengers visiting Fiordland do not disembark, although sometimes an overland connection between Fiordland and Dunedin is available.

Figure 6

Chart, Number of cruise ship passengers vistiting each New Zealand region, year ended June 2017.

Overlap with international travel and migration (ITM) statistics

Everyone who completes border clearance, regardless of whether they travel by air or by sea, is counted in the arrivals/departures of International travel and migration (ITM) statistics.

'Transit' passengers do not complete border clearance – regardless of whether they travel by air or by sea – so are not included in ITM statistics. About three-quarters of cruise ship passengers visiting New Zealand are 'transit' passengers.

The remaining one-quarter are passengers who enter or leave New Zealand by air, before or after travelling by cruise ship. These passengers do complete border clearance, which includes completing arrival/departure cards. These passengers are included in ITM statistics.

The country of residence of cruise ship passengers is unknown – this information is not collected. However, in 2015–17, between 7 and 11 percent of all cruise passengers were travelling as New Zealand citizens. People living in New Zealand are generally not recorded in ITM statistics as overseas visitors. As a result, this suggests that 4–5 percent of the 10 million visitors to New Zealand in 2015–17 were not covered by ITM statistics because they were ‘transit’ cruise ship passengers.

Figure 7


Data sources

Cruise ship passenger statistics are based on advance passenger information supplied by cruise ship crew to Customs NZ under the Customs and Excise Act 1996. Cruise ship port statistics are also based on cruise ship schedules supplied by the New Zealand Cruise Association to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Domestic cruises within New Zealand waters are excluded from the statistics.

Stats NZ (2017). Cruise ship traveller statistics: June 2017. Retrieved from

ISBN 978-1-98-852840-3 (online)
Published 18 October 2017

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