Perspective – April 2011

Cruise lobby? Good luck!

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Ian McMahonCruise lobby? Good luck!

THE likely emergence of a unified cruise industry lobby group to speak to governments with a united voice (see story) will be widely welcomed not just by the cruise industry but by the travel industry as a whole.

The spectacular growth of cruising has brought huge benefits to Australians well beyond the confines of the cruise sector.

Not least among those beneficiaries have been Australia’s travel agents who earn comparatively lucrative commissions selling cruises to the steadily increasing numbers of their compatriots opting for a cruise holiday.

It is no exaggeration to say that during GFC-blighted 2009, when the industry reeled from declines in other sectors, the 11 per cent growth in the cruise market was responsible for the survival of many agents.

The problem is that Australia’s port facilities, particularly in our gateway port of Sydney, are bursting at the seams as they attempt to cope with the influx of passengers, outbound and inbound.

In recent times the burden of presenting the case for investment in assets that ultimately pay a rich dividend to the nation has been shouldered by the seemingly indefatigable head of Carnival Australia, Ann Sherry.

She seems to have taken over the mantle from Orion Cruises founder, Sarina Bratton who, in years past, dedicated countless hours to the task of raising cruising’s profile in Canberra’s corridors of power.

Presumably Bratton has been a little pre-occupied with running Orion Cruises which she has successfully developed to the point where it is about to add a second vessel.

FACT: Bratton has received at least two offers from other governments to relocate Orion’s operations to their country.

I can’t imagine Bratton, a passionately loyal Australian, accepting such an offer – although, perhaps, there will eventually come one that is too good to refuse – but it does illustrate that some countries value cruising’s contribution to the economy a little more than governments in this country.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson nailed the crucial issues facing this country’s tourism industry when he switched the focus supply-side and commissioned the Jackson Report.

If there is a supply-side issue that needs to be tackled urgently it is Australia’s cruising infrastructure.
But as Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy points out, this infrastructure is the responsibility of Australia’ state and territory governments.

The cruise industry, it seems, is yet another victim of Australia’s perennial federal-state blame game.
Who can blame Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon for saying: “We won’t buy into that.”
Good luck to any lobbying body that tries to untangle it!

Federal Tourism Minister Ferguson has won plaudits for implementing Australia’s first national tourism quality program. Is there no way he can ensure the nation’s ports meet the same quality standards the rest of the travel and tourism industry aspires to?






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