Cruise control: The brake on our major tourism generator

Australia’s cruise industry is being held back by a critical shortage of port space, says a leading industry body.

While passenger numbers continue to swell, capacity constraints will prevent Australia hitting its target of two million ocean cruise passengers by 2020 according to Steve Odell, chair of the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) for Australasia.

Presenting the industry’s major annual market report, Mr Odell named several cruise companies that want to homeport in Australia, but he said there is currently “no room at the inn”.

He argued the crisis has been looming over the cruise industry for years and said: “We have now pretty much reached capacity”.

Cruise ships calling at 41 regional ports and anchorages around the country provide a lucrative source of income as hundreds of tourists at a time disembark to explore onshore attractions and accommodation.

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Sydney’s space issue has forced the NSW government to consider double turn-arounds at the Overseas Passenger Terminal as the state develops plans for a second terminal east of the harbour bridge.

It is estimated Sydney missed out on $11 million in cruise ship revenue last year, with CLIA managing director Joel Katz saying: “Sydney Harbour has reached capacity over the cruise season and is in urgent need of additional berthing space for the industry to meet its growth potential through the deployment of newer and larger ships in the region.”

Wollongong, Brisbane and Melbourne are struggling to handle an overflow of liners from Sydney, while ports around the nation from Tasmania to Townsville are scrambling to build new facilities to keep up with demand.

1.34 million Australians cruised in 2017, putting us at the top of the cruise industry globally for market penetration. A massive 5.7 percent of the population – or one in 18 – took an ocean cruise in 2017.

Regional cruising dominates the local market, with the South Pacific maintaining its position as Australia’s favourite cruise destination.

But we also continue to be an attractive cruise destination for international holidaymakers, with around 200,000 international passengers getting on board in 2017 – the majority from the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.

Mr Odell said it was critical that Australia future-proofed cruise tourism to avoid losing potential capacity to Asia.

The CLIA representis more than 95% of the global cruise industry.

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