Niue is this week welcoming its first visiting yachts in three years.

The steady trickle of maritime visitors had been a much welcome feature of Niuean winters for many years until the island was shut down due to the Covid pandemic.

Niue Yacht Club manages moorings for the vessels and its commodore Keith Vial told RNZ Pacific these latest arrivals came as a real surprise to the islanders.

“They just came in over the horizon and suddenly you find you have got two yachts in the bay,” Vial said.

“What is even more of a surprise, when they came ashore on the dock, they just kept coming. So we ended up with 19 young Danes off the two vessels – ten on one, nine on the other,” he said.

Vial said the crew on the yachts are mostly young people from Denmark, on their gap years, who are coming out to the Pacific for two or three months of cruising here.

He said they have already visited French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, with the next port of call Apia, Samoa.

In 2019, Niue welcomed 640 yachties – people who spend liberally re-stocking and at the island’s restaurants.

But concerns have been raised at the steep government charges they face.

The country’s tourism sector is just getting back on its feet but it is having to contend with a departure tax of NZ$150(US$92), among other costs.

Vial said yachties were concerned, particularly the hefty departure tax.

“That applies to everyone over 12 and that is one of the things that applies to the yacht crews too,” he said.

“They do not use airport facilities and have security issues. They do have the normal government staff attend for customs clearance and stuff.”

“So that is being discussed at the moment because it may be a factor that puts people off – puts the cruising community off,” he said.