Monday’s visit by the Explorer of the Seas will not be the last with another three ships locked in for “turn around visits” to Port Kembla.
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh confirmed Chinese company Star Cruises would use the Illawarra as a home port for three trips in the upcoming season (October to April).
This means each cruise would begin and end at Port Kembla, increasing visitors to around 9000 each time as opposed to around 4500, with more economic spend due to overnight stays.
“It’s a massive step forward and exciting,” Mr Sleigh said. “One of the benefits are they’re staying in hotels the night before and night after.”
Cruise Wollongong chair, Wollongong Councilor Leigh Colacino, said as Sydney doesn’t have the capacity to fulfill more growth in the sector Port Kembla was ready in the short term and even into the long term.
Mr Sleigh added that if a second cruise ship destination was built in Sydney it would be many years away, so they wanted to show the world Port Kembla was a serious alternative.
“It’s up to the cruise industry to make their decision but if Sydney Harbour is not available and they want to come to one of the fastest growing cruise demographics in the world, then Port Kembla is positioned to continue to facilitate that,” he said.
In 2016–17 NSW accounted for 58 per cent of the national economic contribution of the cruise industry to the Australian economy, according to the Cruise Lines International Association data.
Monday’s visit from Explorer of the Seas saw many of the 4100 passengers and crew step onto Illawarra soil from about 7am to 4:30pm. Destination Wollongong predicted the economic benefit from the day visit to be around $500,000.
It was the seventh cruise ship to dock at Port Kembla since 2016.
It comes as the state government announced their 20-year vision for South Coast tourism in the Marine Tourism Strategy 2019 report, which was released on the same day.
The report outlines a number of strategies to promote the coast including developing a voyaging network to enhance well-established ports and enhance onshore multipurpose passenger facilities.