One year on: Australian cruise renaissance gathers pace

Cruise Lines International Association - CLIA (logo)More than 40 international cruise ships have returned to local waters in the year since Australia’s cruise suspension was lifted, reviving an industry worth billions of dollars a year to communities around the country.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said today Australia had undergone a cruising renaissance over the summer peak season and was on track to return to pre-pandemic prosperity by the end of the year.

The Australian Government announced on March 15 last year it would not renew its national cruise suspension, paving the way for ships to return in a carefully managed revival that began initially with short domestic itineraries in May 2022.

CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said the industry had now returned to a full mix of domestic, international and expedition cruise operations, spanning all states and the Northern Territory.

“We have welcomed more than 40 international cruise ships to Australian waters over the 2022-23 season and by next summer we expect to see around 60 ships – the same level of activity we saw prior to the pandemic,” Mr Katz said. “Globally, cruise passenger volumes are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, and the Australian market is showing every sign that it too has embraced the worldwide cruising revival.”

Mr Katz said the return of cruising had reinstated an industry previously worth more than $5 billion a year to communities around Australia, supporting the equivalent of more than 18,000 full time jobs.

“Cruise tourism brings economic opportunities to ports and destinations right around the country, including many regional areas and remote communities,” Mr Katz said. “It benefits a huge range of local businesses, like travel agents, tour operators, hotels, restaurants and retailers, plus a whole spectrum of suppliers like transport workers, farmers, food and beverage providers, entertainers, port workers and maritime service providers.”

“Importantly, public enthusiasm around cruising has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “Eighty per cent of Australians who have cruised before say they will cruise again, a level similar to the 82% recorded in 2019.”

Business Sydney Executive Director Paul Nicolaou said the NSW capital had been among the first beneficiaries of the cruise revival.

“The combined boost from big events such as WorldPride 2023 and the return of cruise ships to Sydney has been a major factor in restoring the city’s mojo as it continues to roar back from the pandemic,” Mr Nicolaou said.

“Business Sydney was one of the first organisations to advocate for the ending of the cruise ban because we were aware that the industry had the necessary protocols in place to resume operations safely. The return of cruise ships has helped restore a sense of excitement, attracted local people back to the city and added to the tourism economy with visits from thousands of international cruise passengers.”

Tourism Accommodation Australia and Accommodation Association Chief Executive Officer Michael Johnson said the return of cruise tourism had provided a major boost for hotels across the country.

“To witness the many guests arriving at hotels in Sydney this summer as the cruise ships dock in Circular Quay and White Bay is a wonderful sight to see for our industry,” Mr Johnson said.

“The cruise tourism industry plays a major part in the occupancy and food and beverage spend in city and regional hotels around the country, which had sadly been missing since Covid. It’s very encouraging to see it returning so quickly to pre-pandemic levels and supporting the accommodation sector’s recovery.”

Australia has traditionally been one of the world’s most passionate cruise markets. In 2019 more than 1.2 million Australians took an ocean cruise, representing 4.8% per cent of the population or almost one in 20 Australians.

(CLIA Australasia)