Australian cruise passenger numbers recover

The cruise industry has seemingly finally recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

AUSTRALIANS are finally back on board with cruising, with numbers finally overtaking pre-pandemic levels, according to new statistics from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) this week.

During the 2023 calendar year, 1.25 million Australians enjoyed an ocean cruise, slightly above the 1.24 million who sailed in 2019.

In fact, almost one in every 20 Australians took a cruise last year, with our country the fourth-largest cruise market that year, behind the United States (16.9 million), Germany (2.5 million) and the United Kingdom (2.2 million).

“Australians have not just returned to cruising, they’ve come back with enormous enthusiasm and at a faster pace than in other markets worldwide,” said Managing Director Joel Katz.

“Australia has long been one of the world’s most passionate cruise source markets, and these figures confirm an enduring love for cruising among Australian travellers.”

According to the report, numbers of overseas visitors cruising in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, have also returned to similar levels to 2019, reaching 217,000 in last year.

Meanwhile, cruising is now attracting younger Australians, with almost one-third being under 40 and the average in 2023 being 48.4 years, down from 50.4 in 2019.

The figures also revealed that most Australian cruise passengers come from NSW (57.7%), followed by Queensland (23%), Victoria (10.9%), Western Australia (3.8%), South Australia (3.8%), Tasmania (0.5%), the ACT (0.2%) and the NT (0.1%).

On average, Australians enjoyed 8.1 days on their ocean cruise trips, down from 9.0 days in 2019.

It’s clear that demand for cruising is at an all-time high in Australia, but Katz emphasised the need for the government and ports to support the industry in the future.

“To maintain our position as a leading destination and meet demand, it’s crucial that regulatory frameworks and port charges remain internationally competitive,” Katz said.

“Balanced regulation and reasonable costs are fundamental to fostering a thriving cruise sector capable of contributing significantly to the Australian economy.”

Worldwide, a record 31.7 million people took an ocean cruise in 2023, breaking the previous global record of 29.7 million in 2019.

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