This year is shaping up to be a particularly big one for the local cruise industry — and not simply because of the large number of ships which will sail in our waters.
In response to the rapid growth of cruising around the world, 2013 heralds the beginning of the first global cruise industry organisation.
The International Cruise Council Australasia is thrilled to be joining with eight other cruise industry associations around the world to form a common body which will serve as a unified voice and the advocacy leader of the burgeoning global cruise industry.
Under a new name, Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA Australasia), and strengthened by a new global structure, the Cruise Council will be aiming to provide greater resources and support to our travel agent and cruise line members following the transition in 2013.
Becoming part of this new global association will build the industry's leadership globally, allowing us to speak with a single voice on issues such as safety, security, the environment, sustainability and health.
The formation of such an association is a natural evolution for what is now a truly global industry.
Here in Australia and New Zealand, it's an important move which will see our growing industry benefit from the experience and knowledge of our international colleagues.
As the new association sets sail over the coming months there will be a raft of significant benefits for cruise lines, travel agents, and executive partners as we're able to better leverage their investment in association membership.
Travel agents can look forward to more robust partnership programs and networking on a broader scale.
For cruise lines, the association will offer a one-stop global resource on technical and regulatory issues, unified global communication and event coordination.
Meanwhile for partners, there will be greater opportunities for customer and business partner development.
The timing couldn't be better for Australasia, which is home to the fastest growing cruise market in the world.
In 2011, the Australian passenger market grew a record 34% while New Zealand also recorded an impressive 32% hike.
With the parade of megaliners and superliners on show in ports around the region, we're expecting another year of double digit growth in 2012.
Over the past 12 months, it seems like there is a cruise ship berthed in Circular Quay nearly every day with the now familiar green slide of Carnival Spirit, the latest ship to be based here full time, becoming as much a part of the world famous Sydney Harbour landscape as the sails of the Opera House.
And the summer cruise season is only just getting underway.
In Sydney, we're expecting 37 ship visits in February alone — that's more than one a day, with many of them staying overnight.
In fact throughout the month, which has become aptly known as the Festival of Cruising, 13 ships will berth for more than one day allowing passengers plenty of time to take in all of Sydney's sights.
Some of the world's largest ships — including Queen Mary 2, Celebrity Solstice and Voyager of the Seas — as well as smaller ships like Seabourn Odyssey, will also be spending more time cruising local waters this summer.
Having more ships based here during the summer months is a vote of confidence from leading cruise lines that Australasia has well and truly earned its place on the world cruising map.
With more cruise lines choosing to send their ships to our waters each year and carrying our passengers on more cruises across the world, the time is right for us to join with our international counterparts and create a cohesive global partnership to steer the cruise industry on a journey to further success.