Two big events this week put Australia on course to become the regions largest hub for the burgeoning cruise market – and both seem set to have a profound influence on our future tourism.
Cruise is already a $4.8 bn part of our tourist industry. But everyone agrees growth has faltered because Sydney, our biggest draw card for overseas travellers, has reached capacity. During our cruise season, the city with two of our most Insta-desirable icons – the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – is basically full.
So what happened this week which points up an enormous opportunity to turbo charge our cruise industry and send those flagging figures in the stratosphere?
Firstly, Royal Caribbean, the world’s second biggest cruise line next to Carnival Corporation and a company with a strong track record of helping deliver huge infrastructure projects, announced it was building the world’s first carbon neutral private cruise resort in Vanuatu.
Private islands and resorts are the new way for cruise companies to increase passenger spending, and have proved amazingly popular in the Caribbean. Vanuatu is on many pacific itineraries out of Australia and just over three hours flying time away.
Secondly, Royal Caribbean’s chairman Richard Fain has been lobbying our politicians in a bid to speed up the development of Port Botany’s third cruise terminal – which would open the way to the line’s Oasis class ships, which carry over 6,000 tourists at a time.
Mr Fain is one of the most powerful men in the cruise industry. If he is talking to our pollies, it means something big is going down. And the timeline of development at Port Botany has, if all goes according to plan construction beginning around the time Lelepa in Vanuatu will come on stream
Mr Fain praised the Australian market for its growth and talked up the possible deployment of Oasis-class ships in the region – suggesting the lack of infrastructure in Sydney was the only thing holding this back.
He told The Australian newspaper: “We are a long-term business; we are here for the long-term.”
The line’s new Australia MD Gavin Smith also mentioned the possibility of Oasis class ships for Australia when interviewed by Cruise Passenger. Like Mr Fain, he too talked of the readiness of Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart and Fremantle and New Zealand.
“Botany Bay seems like such a no-brainer . It’s good for the guests, especially non-Australians , because it is close to the Sydney Airport. It’s the least disruptive; it fires on every cylinder ,” Mr Fain told The Australian.
“Larger ships need to be taken into account, because they attract a higher per diem per guest. I think we are moving towards a consensus that this is in Australia’s best interest.”
According to The Australian, Mr Fain said he would be meeting various NSW government officials to discuss the port infrastructure issues.
Imagine: Ovation of the Seas, which arrives tomorrow for the start of its season and carries around 4,500 passengers, is tied up at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal; P&O’s Explorer and The Sea Princess are moored at White Bay with another. And the Oasis class Symphony of the Seas is at Botany’s brand spanking new cruise terminal.
If that happened, spending by passengers, crew and others could make the industry worth over $2 bn in just six months for Sydney alone.
Amid all these exciting possibilities, the Port Authority of NSW is preparing for its consultation exercise at the start of the process to establish a business case for Port Botany as Sydney’s third cruise terminal.
A new website and update has already received hundreds of interactions, with residents pointing out their favourite leisure activity sites.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.