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Cruising is fuelling the Australian economy, according to new figures, which found it is only one decimal point away from becoming a three billion dollar industry.

Figures generated by domestic and international cruise operations found the sector contributed $2.9 billion in economic opportunity in 2012/13. That’s 18 percent more than $2.4 billion in 2011/12.

This is achieved through cruisers who stay in hotels, eat in local restaurants and visit tourist attractions. It’s also stimulated through the ships, which require up to 70 local suppliers to help replenish the vessels with fresh food, beverages and other goods.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) said the flow-on effect from pre and post cruise passengers accounts for an average of two to three nights in Sydney hotels, with an average spend of $600 on accommodation, food and drink.

TAA NSW director Carol Giuseppi said: “It generates millions into the Sydney visitor economy, particularly sustaining hotel performance during the quieter trading months of December and January.”

Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry added that considering the increase, it is no surprise businesses and regional ports want to be part of the growing sector.

Ms Sherry also stressed the economic contribution demonstrated the importance of providing port infrastructure, particularly in Sydney.

She said: “The certainty of long-term shared access at Garden Island is vital if cruising is to continue to grow and generate the widespread ripple effect of commercial opportunities for hotel accommodation, restaurants, transport and tour operators.”