JOEL Katz, Managing Director CLIA Australasia
Infrastructure must include cruise
After a succession of announcements at state and federal levels, it’s clear that big ticket infrastructure projects are high on Australia’s political agenda right now.
Billions of dollars have been allocated for developments across the country, particularly for roads and rail upgrades aimed at increasing our capacity on land.
In last month’s federal budget, a record $100 billion was announced for a succession of projects including the Melbourne-Brisbane inland rail, the Western Sydney Airport and the planned Melbourne Airport rail link. This is in addition to other projects flagged at the state level, including in NSW where concepts such as high-speed regional trains were revealed ahead of last month’s election.
All this investment is welcome, particularly from a travel and tourism perspective. But unlocking Australia’s tourism potential involves more than just initiatives on land. The world’s cruise lines are investing billions of dollars in more modern and advanced ships, and this needs to be backed with adequate infrastructure that supports Australia’s economy at sea.
Cruising’s key infrastructure issue in this region remains the lack of available berthing space in Sydney, particularly in the peak summer season. The city is already missing out on valuable tourism opportunities as cruise lines struggle to secure berthing slots and face difficult decisions on whether to deploy their ships here. The bottleneck is threatening to limit our industry’s prosperity not just in Sydney but also throughout the South Pacific, and is already being reflected in reduced levels of growth.
The industry has welcomed the NSW Government’s Cruise Development Plan and is looking forward to seeing details on its business case for a third Sydney terminal. But while this progress is promising, we are still some way from achieving the solution that cruise lines have been seeking in Sydney for over a decade.
The level of political will that has coalesced around other areas of transport, tourism and infrastructure needs to be applied to the cruise economy as well.
All levels of government — federal, state and regional — need to develop a united focus on solving the infrastructure and regulatory issues that limit the cruise industry, and to commit to funding that will help unlock new growth, economic opportunities and job creation. With a common approach — not just in Sydney but across the country — Australia can fully capitalise on continuing global growth in cruising and the scores of new ships set to join the world fleet in coming years.
With the number of cruise passengers worldwide set to break the 30 million barrier this year, not to mention the extraordinary potential in emerging markets in close proximity to Australia, the opportunities that cruising presents for the tourism economy are immense. The key will be in achieving the same degree of political support we’re now seeing for other parts of the tourism and transport sectors.