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Cruising for success...Gore District Council tourism visitor centre senior consultant Renatta Hardy is excited a bus tour package to Gore and Mandeville has been added to the possible day-trip options for a cruise ship's passengers visiting Bluff next March. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Gore is poised to become a port of call for high-end cruise ship travellers.

A bus tour package to Gore and Mandeville has been added to the list of options passengers on smaller cruise ships can take part in when their ship docks at Bluff for the day.

The first group is due next March.

Gore District Council tourism visitor centre senior consultant Renatta Hardy said it was exciting to be added to the cruise ships possible day trips.

“We are one of the products which will be on offer, which is brilliant, and I am very grateful for that,” Mrs Hardy said.

The package extended the range of tourism opportunities the visitor centre had on offer.

“For us to be on the map for cruise ships and the fact that we are just an hour and a bit away is brilliant, so that means [when] more small cruise ships come we have a product ready to go.”

Mrs Hardy had been working with the Great South tourism team to sell the package to a tour organiser.

The day programme on offer had the group leaving Bluff at 8.55am, travelling to Mandeville to take part in activities at the Croydon Aviation Centre, on to Gore to visit the Murawai precinct facilities and then lunch at the Thomas Green Public House and Dining Room before heading back to Bluff.

This proved Gore was in a strategic place to attract visitors.

“I truly believe we are the heart of Southland,” Mrs Hardy said.

It was her understanding that big cruise ships could not dock at Bluff because the harbour was too shallow so she was not sure how many passengers would be involved.

“It’s not a big cruise ship but it’s significant.”

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said considerable effort had been made to provide activities to attract people to spend time in Gore.

“This is an outworking of those in one particular field.

“Full marks to Renatta and the team that have been working very hard behind the scenes to make this happen.

“Hopefully it is the beginning of something that will carry on,” Mr Hicks said.

In July this year, two representatives from ID New Zealand, a cruise inbound operator, visited the Gore district to look at the visitor experiences Eastern Southland had to offer.

Great South hosted the cruise representatives during their time in Eastern Southland, which included visits to Experience Mandeville, the Eastern Southland Gallery, the Hokonui Moonshine Museum and the Thomas Green Public House and Dining Room.

Great South Tourism and Events general manager Bobbi Brown said cruise sector was a key sector which continued to experience significant growth, both in terms of the number of port visits and amount spent by cruise passengers.

The lower south has four key ports or cruising destinations: Port Chalmers, Stewart Island, Fiordland and Bluff.

“All are expecting continued growth in the next few years,” Mrs Brown said.

Work in this area was part of a broader cruise strategy to capitalise on the interest shown by major cruise lines in the Southland region.