There’s nothing worse than inviting someone somewhere, only to have their expectations shattered upon arrival.
And while Sydney is far from disappointing, its cruise infrastructure issues are fast becoming the thorn in the industry’s side.
Enter Norwegian Cruise Line’s Executive Vice President of International Business Development, Harry Sommer, who views Sydney’s lack of solutions as a major problem if we want to compete with the rest of the world.
“It’s pretty clear, certainly here in Sydney anyhow, that the most significant barrier to strong future growth and economic performance is poor port infrastructure,” Sommer told Travel Weekly.
“It’s one thing to invite the world’s biggest cruise brands and luxury liners to homeport in, or visit, cities such as Sydney, but without the infrastructure to support Australian cruising’s current momentum, the local market will stagnate – and Australian travellers will be the ones to miss out.”
Sommer told TW that as the world’s cruise ships grow, it’s not enough just to chug along with what’s available. Already, Sydney has seen ships going elsewhere due to a lack of space or vacancy, with Royal Caribbean earlier this month announcing Voyager of the Seas will not return to Australia for the 18/19 cruise season.
Tourism & Transport Forum’s CEO Margy Osmond recently stressed, “If Sydney is not available as a destination for large cruise liners, the whole country will miss out.
“We are now on the verge of a cruise crisis.”
Meanwhile, at the launch of CLIA’s Cruise Industry Source Market Report for 2016, cruise leaders said without addressing Sydney’s berthing problems, there’s not much room for growth in Australia’s booming cruise industry.
Sommer told TW, “As for trying to overcome this challenge, the solution lies in upgrading all Australian ports to ensure they’re equipped to host – and handle – the world’s largest cruise ships, as well as the sheer volume of ships in service.
“Here in Sydney specifically, to future proof the industry, it’s essential the State Government is lobbied to review the berthing capacity for large ships.
“We need to maintain the pressure as some lines have already indicated they won’t be returning in future seasons until the situation is addressed.
“One proposal would be to transform Garden Island into a fresh cruise berthing zone – something we’d certainly find favourable.”
Quizzed on his thoughts on how Australia compares to the rest of the world’s cruise industry, Sommer said Australia is still one of the biggest markets.
“There’s no doubt Australia is an increasingly major player in the international cruise market, and we’re confident there’s still significant growth in passenger numbers to come.
“Well over 1.2 million Australians took a cruise last year – a 21 per cent year-on-year increase from 2015 – but achieving similar growth in future years will be entirely dependent upon boosting infrastructure, and doing so with long-term growth, rather than a short-term fix, in mind.
“CLIA is certainly buoyed by moves in Queensland to develop a new cruise terminal facility at the river mouth, as well as upgrading the wharf in Eden on the NSW south coast, but there’s clearly a long road ahead.
“The lack of berthing options east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is of particular concern, with a “Full” sign activated at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal throughout the entire summer season every year.”