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From Tuesday 6 April, Fullers360 will move to its visitor off-peak season timetable for some ferry services, starting with Waiheke sailings, which will revert to the same frequency operated during the cooler months of 2020.  Additional seasonal changes will move islands such as Rangitoto and Tiritiri Matangi sailings to off-peak timetables in May.

Fullers360 CEO, Mike Horne, says the season changeover marks the end of a busy summer despite the lack of international visitors this season. However, he assured the changed timetables would continue to provide passengers with adequate frequency, including Waiheke’s regular 30-minute sailing during the peak commuter period between 7am - 9am from Waiheke to Auckland. 

“We always knew this summer was going to be quieter than previous years, and while that has certainly been the case, when we compare to the 2019-20 summer season, we have experienced a 30 per cent drop in passengers across all our destinations. These numbers do represent an overall drop compared to previous summers, but it’s a true reflection that Kiwis have been getting out and about to explore our beautiful Hauraki Gulf and supporting local tourism operators.”

Horne says the drop in passenger numbers generally continued to be felt across key destinations and organisations, including Fullers360.

“We take the role we play in providing a lifeline to island communities very seriously and continue to actively encourage visitation to Hauraki Gulf islands to stimulate domestic tourism. This has positive knock-on effects for local businesses and demonstrates our commitment to the recovery of the tourism industry throughout COVID-19 and in time for a post-Covid era,” Horne says.

Fullers360 is one of New Zealand’s leading tourism operators. Passenger data shows Kiwis have continued to make use of its services, with domestic visitation up on previous years, following a focused effort to encourage locals to explore the Hauraki Gulf. However, the recorded increase does not match the same demand as when international visitors are on our shores.

“Obviously there have been additional factors to consider in moving to off-peak timetables this year and we continue to adapt and make decisions to ensure we continue to keep communities across the Hauraki Gulf well-connected. We remain committed to enabling residents to get where they need to be - the frequency of sailings in our seasonal timetables suits the demand in the visitor off-peak period based on our experience throughout 2020,” says Horne.

The prospect of a trans-Tasman bubble is encouraging for Fullers360 and is being incorporated into future planning, adds Horne.

“We’re closely following the prospects of a trans-Tasman bubble, and will be ready to respond should demand dramatically increase. Since COVID-19 emerged in New Zealand we have been focused on our own domestic tourism recovery to ensure we’re able to respond appropriately when international borders reopen. For example, we’ve retained our marine workforce, so we continue to keep treasured destinations open, as well as being able to scale up as and when demand returns.”

Full changes to timetabling and effective dates can be viewed in this update.