Cruise leaders put pressure on poor infrastructure

Sydney, Australia - December 1, 2013;  7:00am Royal Carribean Cruise Liner, Radiance of the Seas docked at Circular Quay in Sydney.   Sydney Opera House in background.  This ship boasts floor to ceiling windows and an outdoor cinema playing first run movies.

Last year was a record year for Australian cruising with 1,281,139 people taking to the seas. That’s a whole lotta cruising Aussies!

Speaking at CLIA’s Cruise Industry Source Market Report for 2016 launch, Chairman of CLIA and ‎SVP & Managing Director Asia Pacific at Norwegian Cruise Line, Steve Odell, said this figure made Australia one of the highest growing cruise industries in the world.

“This number represented a 222,000 rise on 2015 or a 21 per cent rise year-on-year,” Odell said.

“Australia’s growth rate was the third highest globally.”

Odell explained that Australia also has the “world’s highest market penetration in 2016”, meaning 5.3 per cent of the Australian population took a cruise in 2016.

Odell added, “It was the only market worldwide to exceed four per cent. It was also the tenth straight year of double digit growth for Australia also.”

But Odell sounded a cautionary note, saying, “Asia and New Zealand are actively courting cruise passengers, while NSW still does not have a cruise strategy plan finalised.

“Despite these impressive results, in the years ahead the current momentum will be difficult to maintain without more berthing solutions for Sydney Harbour.”

Carnival Australia Executive Chairman Ann Sherry had a similar warning, adding, “In celebrating such stunning growth, there remains a cautionary tale.

“Future strong growth and economic performance can only be sustained if port infrastructure challenges particularly in Sydney are addressed.”

Commenting on the record breaking year for Aussie cruising, Royal Caribbean Cruises Managing Director Adam Armstrong said the figures reflect the massive range of choice travellers now have spread out in front of them.

“We are seeing a cruise market that is on a growth path quite unlike anything that’s been seen in the world, outside of China,” Armstrong said.

“The question everybody wants to understand is just how much potential growth there is for this market.

“I believe the only impediment to reaching our target of two million Australian cruisers by 2020 is port infrastructure. Sydney is already full. We need to upgrade all of our ports to enable them to handle the largest of the world’s cruise ships.

RCL Cruises – incorporating big ship cruise lines Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises as well as boutique line Azamara Club Cruises – added two ships to its locally based fleet in 2016, including Ovation of the Seas, the country’s largest and most modern megaliner, and carried over 20 per cent more Australian guests compared to 2015.

Royal Caribbean is now the single largest cruise line sailing in Australia during the summer cruise season, operating the three largest ships based down under; Ovation of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

However, Armstrong stressed, “We are now at the crossroads of the future of cruising in Australia”.

RCL earlier this month announced Voyager of the Seas will not return to Australia for the 18/19 cruise season, and that’s largely due to infrastructure issues.

“In order to continue to capitalise on the very significant economic benefits that cruising brings, the government and people of Australia, particularly NSW, now have the opportunity to review the berthing capacity for big ships in Sydney, east of the Harbour Bridge,” Armstrong said.

Together with Radiance of the Seas, Legend of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice and Azamara Quest, it’s estimated that RCL Cruises’ guests from Australia and overseas injected more than $200 million into the national economy in passenger spend alone.

Additionally, Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas made the industry’s maiden cruise ship call to Port Kembla, marking the start of a new tourism era for Wollongong and the Illawarra.

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