Despite the Government announcing New Zealand’s borders will open at the end of July, a Mount Maunganui gift and souvenir shop owner is still playing the waiting game as to when cruise ships will arrive back in Tauranga’s port.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that borders will completely reopen two months earlier than expected, Kiwiana Gifts & Souvenirs owner Ian New still thinks the decision “has been a bit slow”.
Ian had to close one of two shops at the Mount as Covid-19 hit in 2020 and brought an end to visiting cruise ships. Now, despite being allowed back in NZ, Ian – who says cruise ships passenger customers are a big part of his business – doubts he’ll see any this season.
He thinks the Government left the border announcement too close to the season’s usual start of October. Ian says cruise ship companies need to be organised nearly a year before they come to an international port.
“You’ve got to book a berth, you’ve got to be organised; and you have to have everything booked in,” says Ian.
He adds, with a laugh: “You can’t just turn up and line up with all the cargo ships out there in the sea and wait a week”. “My prediction is 2023-2024 is when they’ll [cruise ships] be back.”
Ian had operated a second gifts and souvenir store but had to close it due to the pandemic. “We’re lucky we did [close the second store] otherwise we would’ve never survived because we lost about 80 per cent of our turnover.”
Asked if he would consider opening the second store again with the opening of the borders and return of tourism, Ian says: “I would in a couple of years”.
“I think if things come back in time but we’ve just got to wait and see what the Government is going to do with the border in time as well because you just don’t know.”
However, he is looking forward to when cruise ships do finally return to Port of Tauranga. The cruise ship season is normally in full swing from October. Looking at the Port of Tauranga website cruise ship schedules, Ian says: “there’s nothing being booked in at this stage but who knows”.
“There may be small cruise ships…the smaller companies may come in.”
Business has, however, improved for Ian’s store and he remains positive. “You get up in the morning and smile and carry on,” says Ian.
“Now that the borders are opening we’ve had a lot of Kiwis from all over the world with their families coming home and people here going overseas to see family.”
This has seen business rise for Kiwiana and Ian says: “It’s better than it has been for the past two years”.
A believer in “support local” Ian commends the “strong local customer base” that have been supporting Kiwiana throughout Covid. “[We had] to change the shop for the domestic market but now the tourism side is coming back we can slowly bring that back in,” says Ian. “Having great staff has been good too.
“It’s been a long two years and you’ve just got to stay positive.”