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It’s ‘full steam ahead’ for the Australian cruise industry

Jill Abel and delegates at ACA 2023 celebrated the lifting of COVID cruise protocols in Australia
Delegates at the Australian Cruise Association 2023 annual conference on Thursday were told that, like this year’s theme, it is ‘full steam ahead,’ with predictions for a record 2023-24 southern summer season.

The 25th annual conference, held in the NSW regional port of Wollongong, 85km (53 miles) south of Sydney, included delegates from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand.

‘We are excited to hold our conference back in NSW this year to reflect the importance of the state as a lynchpin for cruise itineraries throughout Australia,’ CEO Jill Abel said.

According to the Port Authority of NSW, around 1m passengers passed through Sydney cruise terminals in the 2022-23 financial year, with visitation rates in NSW approaching pre-pandemic figures at a faster rate than expected.

COVID restrictions lifted

She said the decision on Monday by NSW Premier Chris Minns to formally remove cruise protocols that were put in place in April 2022 to support the safe resumption of cruising was a timely and positive lead-in to the conference.

The cruise protocols that were adopted by the governments of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia required passengers to be fully vaccinated and to wear masks embarking and disembarking and to have negative COVID test results prior to departure.

‘How great is the timing that we can celebrate the lifting of COVID restrictions,’ Abel said.

Industry’s growth

Abel went on to reflect the growth of the industry.

‘When I started working for Hobart Ports Corporation in 1995, Hobart welcomed with great excitement five cruise ship visits per year,’ she said.

‘When I took on this role at the then Cruise Down Under in 2005, there were 28 individual cruise ships in the region, calling to 20 ports and anchorages with around 570,000 passenger and crew days.

‘Prior to the pandemic, the number of ports and anchorages visited had grown to 47 from 55 different cruise ships and 3.8m passenger and crew days.’