In­suf­fi­cient port in­fra­struc­ture curbs cruis­ing in­dus­try

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat -

AC­CORD­ING to Lisa Bauer, the Mi­ami-based vi­cepres­i­dent of global sales and mar­ket­ing for Royal Caribbean Cruises, cruis­ing un­fairly gets a bad rap for at­tract­ing the ‘‘overfed, newly wed and nearly dead’’. In fact, Bauer claims, the av­er­age age of her cruise line’s pas­sen­gers is 42.

In Aus­tralia’s peak cruise sea­son of Oc­to­ber-April, RCC ex­pects to carry more than 200,000 pas­sen­gers in our wa­ters, com­pared with 35,000 just two sea­sons ago.

How­ever, there is a prob­lem. Like her cor­po­rate ri­val Ann Sherry, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Car­ni­val Aus­tralia, Bauer says po­ten­tial growth in the lo­cal cruise mar­ket is be­ing held back by in­suf­fi­cient port in­fra­struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly in Syd­ney and Bris­bane.

Syd­ney Ports Cor­po­ra­tion has been look­ing at re­de­vel­op­ing the city’s Overseas Pas­sen­ger Ter­mi­nal at East Cir­cu­lar Quay for about a year, but it is yet to an­nounce firm plans. The 1960s-built ter­mi­nal needs to be ex­panded to cope with the new wave of me­ga­lin­ers, which typ­i­cally carry more than 4000 cruis­ers. Such an in­flux of pas­sen­gers re­quires larger cus­toms fa­cil­i­ties and up­graded park­ing and pub­lic trans­port op­tions.

‘‘We think this mar­ket has huge po­ten­tial,’’ Bauer says. ‘‘[But] in or­der for more ships [to berth], some­thing needs to be done [about] port in­fra­struc­ture. We’ve been talk­ing about Bris­bane. We see a lot of po­ten­tial there.’’

RCC’s lo­cal chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Gavin Smith, is a strong ad­vo­cate for mov­ing berthing fa­cil­i­ties from Syd­ney Har­bour to Botany Bay. ‘‘In­vari­ably, cruise ship ter­mi­nals around the world are be­ing moved out of big cities,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s eas­ier for pro­vi­sion­ing. Botany Bay may not have a view of the Syd­ney Opera House, but it is ad­ja­cent to in­ter­na­tional and domestic air­ports and there are a lot of other pluses.’’

Bauer dis­misses in­dus­try scut­tle­butt that RCC’s pri­mary rea­son for send­ing so many of its ships to Aus­tralia (there are four down un­der this month) is be­cause the cruise line’s more tra­di­tional mar­kets, such as the Caribbean, are not per­form­ing due to the poor state of the North Amer­i­can econ­omy.

She says Aus­tralia is an amaz­ing cruise des­ti­na­tion and on ev­ery­one’s bucket list.

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