The Australian cruise market has grown by 21 per cent, with 1,281,159 Australians taking a cruise in 2016. The growth of 222,378 passengers is the biggest increase on record, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia's 2016 Australian Ocean Passenger Cruise Industry Source Market Report.
CLIA Australasia's Managing Director, Joel Katz said "In 2016, Australia achieved the equivalent of 5.3 per cent market penetration, that's one in 19 Australians taking a cruise, making this the highest per capita ratio in the world.
"The growing capacity and the wide variety of cruising options being offered are capturing the imagination of Australians, with more Australians discovering that cruising is an easy, relaxing and value for money way to holiday.
"The most popular cruises are local itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, accounting for 76.7 per cent of Australian cruise passengers, growing by 30.2 per cent year on year.
"With many of these local cruises calling at the 34 regional ports and anchorages around the Australian coastline, local communities benefit from the injection of valuable tourist dollars into the local economies.
"Australia's ocean cruise passenger numbers have increased by an average of 19.4 per cent annually since 2007. In the last five years, these numbers have doubled.
"However, future growth of Australia's cruising sector will be hindered by a lack of berthing options in major capital cities.
"To achieve the 11.8 per cent annual Australian passenger growth needed to achieve the goal of 2 million passengers by 2020, there are significant challenges facing us as an industry here in Australia, particularly in Sydney. These must be urgently addressed."
Calling on the NSW Government to engage with the industry to resolve the lack of berthing options east of the Harbour Bridge, Mr Katz said, "these results reconfirm cruising as Australia's fastest growth tourism sector, worth close to $5 billion annually to the economy, and supporting almost 20,000 jobs. Cruise Lines are already announcing that lack of capacity in Sydney is forcing them to redeploy their ships. The knock-on effect of this will impact thousands of travel agents, hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, and all the Australian suppliers, large and small, who provide the food and beverage and other supplies to the cruise industry."
The annual report shows Australia has performed well ahead of leading established markets including, Germany, UK and Ireland, and USA/Canada.
Mr Katz said, "The current growth of the Australian Market, and the fact it surpasses more established markets, is a reflection that Australians are increasingly embracing cruise as a preferred holiday. Resolving the lack of berthing space in Sydney Harbour is an absolute priority to ensure the continued growth of cruise tourism in Australia."
Other key findings of the 2016 Australian Cruise Industry Source Market report include: