The concept connects tourists with the likes of local chefs and exclusive exhibitions and is driving repeat interest in ports and to guests who may not have previously considered doing a shore tour. The Bay of Islands and Central North Island are among the regions where small groups have personalised tours covering the conservation of forests and endangered birds along with a private tour of a whananga. Foraging excursions with a Maori chef who will takes guests through the incorporation of indigenous flavours in cooking is another Local Connections offering.
‘In Japan, the concept has government backing to spread the dollar beyond marquee tourist spots,’ says Stuart Allison, senior vice president Asia Pacific commercial and operations at Princess Cruises who was in Blenheim for the NZ Cruise Conference. ‘Princess has a long association with regional communities who share in the success of cruising, and it was encouraging to hear this morning (at the cruise conference) about how the local Blenheim Maori community is keen to get involved with cruise tourism.’ ‘Local connections in New Zealand are not hard to source,’ says Michael Mihajlov, director, destination management with Carnival Australia, who was also at the conference. ‘New Zealand has caught onto our ethos very quickly. We put its local heroes on a platform with global reach and give an ancillary revenue source for people who don’t usually connect with cruise and tourism.’