(1:44 a.m. AEST) -- The New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA) has renewed urgent pleas to the Government of New Zealand to set a firm date for the reopening of the country's maritime borders that have remained closed for over two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release, the NZCA stressed that the ongoing uncertainty on the future of the cruise sector continues to put at risk hundreds of ailing tourism businesses that support the industry throughout the country.
"The continuing silence from Government on reopening our maritime borders is squandering the enormous contribution that the New Zealand cruise sector could make in providing desperately needed revenue to help regional tourism operators survive into 2023," NZCA Chair Debbie Summers said in a press release issued Thursday.
Summers added that New Zealand has already lost 250 port calls and around $150 million in revenue due to the continuing lack of certainty surrounding the country's cruise sector. She pointed out that cruise lines need ample time to plan their schedules for the 2022-23 cruise season -- and that time is quickly running out.
"This can't continue," Summers continued. "We cannot lose another cruise season without a serious breakdown in our ability to service all visitors to New Zealand."
Over 80 Countries Around the World Have Reopened to Cruise
Summers pointed out more than 80 countries around the world are now open to cruise, including neighboring Australia. "We know there is considerable pent-up demand among travelers for cruise, but international cruise lines are unwilling to put New Zealand on their list because we are still closed."
Prior to the pandemic, the cruise sector added $550 million to New Zealand’s economy -- an amount equal to the nation’s entire Business and Events sector. Summers emphasized that the cruise industry is now well-recognized as leading the way with COVID-19 health measures, citing the need for passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated; the addition of enhanced ventilation onboard, and proven health measures are extensively applied on board.
"The Government must announce urgently when the maritime border will open or we will continue to see yet more cancellations, and we will all miss out on the vital opportunities that cruise offers to our communities," she added.
New Zealand's government has yet to provide an official response to the New Zealand Cruise Association’s latest plea. The cruise industry in the country has remained shuttered since March 2020.