Australia is heading for a new cruise record, with between 1.2 and 1.3 million Aussie passengers taking to the oceans and rivers for their holidays.
The latest figures from Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) for 2015 showed our proportion of the population taking a cruise holiday exceeded every other country in the world.
We recorded a rise of 14.6 per cent to 1,058,781 passengers and a market penetration of 4.5 per cent.
But Carnival Cruise Lines executive chair Ann Sherry, a former CLIA chair, told an audience aboard Queen Mary 2 that cruise numbers are likely to be between 1.2 and 1.3 million – an astonishing rise of up to 20 per cent.
A brochure celebrating a “Decade of Growth” maintains market penetration will be 5% with 1.2 million passengers in 2017, and an economic value of $5 billion.
That would make Australia the fastest growing cruise market outside China, where cruise numbers rose more than 70 per, but off a much lower base, and with a population of 1.3 billion.
Ms Sherry was keen to claim the enormous growth in cruise for her own line, telling her audience of mainly cruise industry members: “Queen Mary 2’s first visit to Sydney captured the imagination of thousands of Australians who fell in love with her classic style as well as her state-of-the-art features.
“Without question, Queen Mary 2 put cruising on many Australians wish lists and helped fuel the industry’s phenomenal growth Down Under.”
But Royal Caribbean was also keen to reap some of the glory.
Adam Armstrong, the line’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, pointed out that Ovation of the Seas, the newest and biggest ship to cruise Australia, was now driving cruise numbers.
Royal Caribbean’s President Adam Goldstein, visiting Australia, said: “The results are terrific and Adam and his team have done a great job
This is one of the best harbour cities, and this is one of the great cruise centres to the world.”
Joel Katz, managing director of CLIA Australasia, said in response to the Carnival figures: “We’ll be releasing the official CLIA Source Market/Cruise Stats report in Q2, and expect it show continued growth of passenger numbers.
Australia is in the midst of another record cruise season with 41 cruise ships from our member lines making almost 900 calls to ports around Australia. That’s 10 more ships than we had cruising our waters just 5 years ago. There really is a ship for everyone and with more and more lines sending their ships south for the summer, and an increased choice of homeported ships, it’s never been easier to choose a cruise holiday.”
The growth figures came as the cruise industry stepped up the pressure on the NSW and Federal Governments over capacity in Sydney Harbour, with Mr Goldstein maintaining the industry was not being included in strategic talks and that there was no “champion” for cruise in the NSW government despite the huge dollar worth to tourism.
Mr Katz added: “It remains vital that we address the issue of infrastructure to ensure the Australian cruise industry meets its growth potential through the deployment of newer and larger ships in the region. The growth of cruising throughout Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific is highly dependent on the infrastructure of Sydney which is the cruise gateway for the region, and the industry eagerly awaits the release of the NSW Government’s 25-year Cruise Plan for discussion.”
A spokesperson for Melinda Pavey, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, said: “The NSW Government recently invested $135 million in new facilities and infrastructure to cater for existing ships and attract new cruise liners. The Government is currently looking at ways to boost capacity for cruise ships in Sydney Harbour.”