Ensuring Australia’s future as a premium cruise destination

In the wake of the shuttering of the P&O Cruises Australia brand, CLIA Managing Director JOEL KATZ discusses how our country can overcome its operational challenges and enhance its competitiveness.

Recent announcements have underscored the significant costs and operational complexities cruise lines encounter when planning operations in our region. Our operating costs rank among the highest globally, and the lack of consistent regulatory certainty from one year to the next only amplifies scheduling challenges and expenses. These obstacles not only deter cruise lines from introducing new ships to our market but also strain the resources of those already committed to our region, making it increasingly difficult for them to sustain operations.

We know that Australians are among the most passionate cruisers in the world, and the cruise industry is a vital part of our tourism economy. The number of Australians taking an ocean cruise reached 1.25 million during 2023. Australians have not just returned to cruising, they’ve come back with enormous enthusiasm and at a faster pace than most other markets worldwide. Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) figures also show a revival in the number of overseas visitors cruising in our region, which reached 217,000 during 2023.

Our cruise community contributes more than $5 billion annually in economic activity and supports more than 18,000 jobs across the economy. This includes a wide range of sectors from hospitality and retail to transportation, logistics, and the extensive local cruise supply chain, all of which benefit from the influx of cruise passengers and crew. Cruise tourism also plays a crucial role in supporting rural economies, bringing visitors to areas that might otherwise see less tourist activity. This dispersion of economic benefits underscores the importance of maintaining a vibrant and accessible cruise industry in Australia. The impact on local businesses, from small travel agents and retailers to large tour operators, is significant, fostering economic growth and community development.

To retain and attract cruise business, our government must address these barriers and enhance our region’s competitiveness. Strategic changes are essential to safeguard Australia’s status as a favoured cruise destination. Without addressing these issues, we risk losing our appeal in the global cruise market, which is becoming increasingly competitive with emerging destinations offering more attractive operational environments.

CLIA is actively advocating for more cruise-friendly government policies. By fostering a competitive cost structure and a more supportive regulatory environment, Australia can remain a top choice for cruise lines and their passengers. This includes simplifying regulatory processes that balance safety and environmental protection with the needs of our sector, investing in infrastructure improvements at ports to accommodate cruise vessels, and ensuring the future supply of sustainable marine fuels. A collaborative effort between the government, industry stakeholders, and local communities is necessary to create a sustainable and thriving cruise industry.

Ultimately, enhancing Australia’s competitiveness in the global cruise sector will not only benefit the industry but also bolster our overall tourism market, ensuring long-term economic prosperity and job creation for Australians. By addressing these challenges head-on, we can secure a bright future for Australia as a premier cruise destination.

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