“The start of this decade has defined us as an industry”: Katz kicks of Cruise360

“The start of this decade has defined us as an industry”: Katz kicks of Cruise360

Cruise360 kicked off this morning, welcoming a sold-out crowd of more than 550 people to Sydney’s Hyatt Regency for CLIA Australiasia’s first in-person conference since the beginning of the global pandemic.

Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) regional MD Joel Kats welcomed travel agents and suppliers and thanked them for their continued support over the past few years.

“I want to thank all our supporters across the travel trade, for the role you’ve taken in bringing us through the past two and a half years and into recovery,” Katz said.

“As we learned to terrible effect in recent years, when cruise lines stop operating a huge range of businesses and people suffer.”

But there is a silver lining to the pandemic, according to Katz, with collaboration within the industry stronger than ever, new relationships with governments and a heightened engagement with every component of cruise.

“Without question, the start of this decade has defined us as an industry for the better,” he continued.

“Through our pandemic response, we’ve shown what we’re capable of when we unite as a truly global community, and how far we can go when we’re confronted with threats to the health and safety of our guests and of our people.

“And as we’ve risen to the challenges presented to us over the past few years, it’s been you our community of supporters that has helped provide the unities and the strength needed to align to overcome obstacles and to succeed.

Katz’s address was followed by a State of the Industry panel discussion featuring Marguerite Fitzgerald; president of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, Gavin Smith; VP & MD of Royal Caribbean Cruises and Steve Odell, SVP & MD Asia Pacific of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises.

The trio set the tone for the day, addressing challenges and successes in Australia’s cruise market.

Odell was quick to remind the audience of the cruise industry’s key challenges before the global pandemic brought it to a halt, urging action to address capacity constraints in Sydney.

“That issue has to be back on the table soon. When we left this subject at the end of my chair in 2019, we were at the financial analysis stage of Yarra Bay as a potential solution to that,” he said.

“And I think that has to come back on the table, although we all understand the difficulties with that choice.

“The end game is that we’re going to need more capacity in Sydney.

“You see companies like Virgin coming into the market in Melbourne, you see what’s happening in Brisbane. So there’s no question given what the projections are. We have to get back to this conversation.”

Most poignant perhaps was Fitzgerald’s take on the negative reporting the cruise industry has received from the mainstream media over the past two years.

“There’s so much interest from the media in the cruise industry and yet at times it is a little sensational,” she said.

“But it also shows that there really is interest. I’ve spoken to some of the media companies who say so many of their viewers are cruisers, and that’s why they ran the story.”

Fitzgerald said that since cruising in Australia has resumed, cruise passengers have acted fast to shut down negative reports of contained COVID outbreaks onboard ships.

“Our guests came out really strong and said, ‘Why are we talking about this? I’m just as likely to be exposed at Woollies as I am on a cruise ship and in fact, the cruise industry is really taking my health and safety seriously. What is there to see here?'”

Cruise360 will wrap up at 7pm this evening following a packed lineup of panel discussions, updates and a 40 exhibitor-strong trade show.

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