Cruise growth hits troubled waters

A long run of phenomenal growth in Australia’s cruise industry appears to have come to a halt as operators contend with berthing constraints and a slump in visitor spending.

In their first joint economic assessment of the Australian cruise industry released last month, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia and the Australian Cruise Association (ACA) highlighted the enormous financial contribution the sector makes to the local economy.

Cruise tourism injected $4.8 billion into the economy during 2017-18, including $2.3 billion in direct economic output and $2.5 billion in indirect and induced output.

But after changes in methodology and the merger of separate reports produced in the past, the two associations said they were unable to make direct comparisons with the previous year, when CLIA’s report showed a much stronger economic contribution of $5.3 billion.

CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said recalculations of last year’s data had confirmed a lack of progress.

“We did actually rebase the previous numbers using the same assumptions and methodology and it basically didn’t show any growth which is what we were expecting because we didn’t think the industry grew that much,” Katz told travelBulletin.

“We had the same number of ships and a similar number of ports. Visit days went up slightly but spend came down slightly, so it was not unexpected.”

Capacity constraints have been blamed for the stagnation in cruise growth, particularly in Sydney where berthing issues continue to plague cruise lines.

“With the nation’s cruise gateways at crisis point, we need to find solutions to capacity constraints to ensure strong economic growth into the future,” Katz said.

“For Australia to cash in, we need to make room for more ships.”

Conducted by AEC Group, the study showed that 1,236 ship visits provided 3.5 million passenger and crew visit days last financial year. More than 17,000 full time jobs were supported by the direct spending of cruise passengers, crew and cruise lines, while wages added $1.4 billion to the local economy.