The New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA) says the country's international reputation with cruise companies and their passengers has been "badly tarnished" by the Government's decision not to issue visas to all staff aboard the Le Lapérouse, forcing the ship's owners to cancel seven fully booked expedition voyages in Aotearoa.
Ponant, the company behind the cruise ship, announced the cancellation on Wednesday morning saying it had been informed while at sea enroute to New Zealand that Immigration NZ (INZ) had declined visas for 61 of the 90 crew.
NZCA CEO Kevin O'Sullivan says the organisation has asked for meetings with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, but so far the requests have been deferred.
"Many once-flourishing Kiwi companies country-wide are dependent on the cruise industry and are now even more concerned for their livelihoods. Le Lapérouse would have safely brought more than $6 million to New Zealand's tourism economy," O'Sullivan says.
"This cruel blow will be even more keenly felt within our harder hit regional communities. Now all opportunity has gone for this season and with it the small glimmer of hope that we all had. The industry has been abandoned by our Government."
On Friday, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi warned tour and event organisers to sort their border requirements before trying to enter New Zealand.
"Le Lapérouse was given permission by Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield to travel to New Zealand - on the condition that Le Lapérouse obtained the necessary visas from Immigration New Zealand," he said.
Faafoi said that was made clear to the ship's agents at least twice.
"The ship should have waited for decisions on visas to be completed to ensure those on board complied with New Zealand immigration requirements when the ship entered our border."
Faafoi described the cruise ship's failure to obtain the necessary visas before departing for New Zealand as "unwise".
Despite this, the NZCA says the decision will damage the cruise industry which is worth millions for New Zealand's economy.
"We must start working together to provide a pathway for resumption. It can be done. This should never have happened and this has, sadly, badly tarnished our country's previous cruise-friendly reputation," O'Sullivan said.
Following the announcement from Ponant, Faafoi said New Zealand border entry requirements have to be met before any vessel will be allowed to enter, regardless of what they are here for.
"The Government expects that, and New Zealanders do too," Faafoi said.