- The Tasmanian port sees about 135 cruise ships every year and the numbers are steadily rising eventually.
- Last year passengers spent more than $30 million on shore and in 2022 that will rise to $50 million.
- Some tourism operators worry the growth is too fast and the industry body wants to see an increase in smaller cruise ships.
Rachel Power from Mount Field National Park’s visitor centre and cafe feels that the prospect of a busy summer season ahead will be fidgety, reports ABC News.
Famous tourist attraction
Mount Field is the closest national park to Hobart and is a popular destination for cruise ship visitors.
“Cruise ships are both a blessing and a curse for our business here in the park,” she said.
In the past four years, the number of cruise ships visiting Tasmanian ports annually has more than doubled from 60 to 135 and is expected to reach 146 in the next two years.
Overcrowding is not good
Mrs Power said some days, with little warning, 10 busloads of cruise ship visitors can arrive at the park just 15 minutes apart.
“If you’ve got 300 people trying to view Russell Falls and get that beautiful photo that we all know and we all love and we want to keep from our holiday, it’s very difficult when there are that many people around,” she said.
She would like to see scheduling of cruise ships and their tour buses better managed.
“We get dictated to by the cruise ship companies, but we need to dictate a little better to them,” she said.
“We’ve got to maintain that experience for everybody, not just the cruise customers but all those other customers who are here for a longer stay and are spending more money than a cruise customer who is here for an hour.”
Steady increase in cruise ships
There is no chance of things slowing down with a steady increase in cruise ship visits locked in until 2022.
The Tourism Industry Council said leadership from the State Government was badly needed to shape the sector going forward.
“We don’t want to be alarmist,” chief executive Luke Martin said, “but the reality is, if we don’t control this market it will control us, and there are destinations around the world that have lost control of their cruise sector“.
Mr Martin said the Government needed to put pressure on TasPorts to introduce more sustainable scheduling.
“You’re [TasPorts] essentially the client that hosts and attracts those cruise ships, you’re the biggest financial beneficiary from them from port landing fees, ultimately it’s the responsibility of government to send that message,” he said.
On track for record season
In a statement TasPorts said there were currently 130 cruise ship calls booked statewide for the 2019-2020 season — an increase of 24 per cent on last season “but only a 4 per cent increase on the 2017/2018 season which was Tasmania’s largest cruise ship season on record“.
It said it had spent $10 million on cruise ship-related infrastructure in the past six years and worked closely with Tourism Tasmania and regional stakeholders to ensure cruise ship growth was sustainable.
TasPorts made about $15 million in port fees last financial year and cruise ship visitors spent about $30.5 million; Tourism Tasmania expects that to grow to $50 million by 2022.
It said it “works closely with Tourism Tasmania and regional stakeholders to ensure the growth of cruise in Tasmania occurs in a sustainable manner“.
“TasPorts has been a key stakeholder and is supportive of the recently released Sustainable Cruising Blueprint by Government and is actively supporting the implementation of this strategy as required.”
“This includes work alongside Government with cruise lines to ensure appropriate scheduling of cruise ship visits and suitability of ships for each port.”
TasPorts said “cruise arrivals during the 2017-2018 season resulted in 394 direct and indirect jobs being created, with cruise arrivals during the 2017-2018 season added $57.6 million to the state’s economy“.
Infrastructure needs to keep pace
Rachel Power wants more investment in infrastructure as she gets ready for Mount Field’s busiest ever summer season.
“I think infrastructure needs to keep pace with visitation … there are some issues here that can be very simply fixed, a little bit of money and a little bit of investment in this park goes a long way,” she said.
Tourism Tasmania’s 2019-2022 Blueprint for Sustainable Cruise Shipping in Tasmania identifies a need for regional dispersal of cruise ships and for them to stay longer in port to ensure greater financial advantage to the state.
At the moment cruise ships sail into Hobart, Port Arthur and Burnie, while Wineglass Bay is restricted to ships which carry fewer than 100 passengers.
Other east coast ports being considered as an alternative to Wineglass Bay include Promise Bay, Bicheno, Swansea and Maria Island.
Small cruise ship operators have also shown interest in Flinders Island, King Island, Stanley and Bruny Island.
Two expedition ships will visit Beauty Point on the Tamar this season after TasPorts upgraded wharf infrastructure.
Bonorong Sanctuary in praise of cruise ships
While challenges exist, some tourism operators only have praise for cruise ships and Greg Irons from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart is one of them.
Mr Irons extended the sanctuary’s car park and put on more staff as cruise visitor numbers grew.
“The cruise ships mean a lot more than just paying a few wages and funding a few rescues, they essential raise us enough to fund over winter when there aren’t the tourists around,” he said.
Bonorong now operates an animal hospital on site which was funded in part by cruise ship visitors.
“Things like the rescue service the wildlife hospital … all of these things are very, very expensive to run and they need guests through the gates to pay for them,” he said.
The cruise ship season starts to ramp up in early December.
In a statement, Premier Will Hodgman said “we know that cruise ship visits provide a welcome boost for many retailers and tour operators … that’s why we are also working with cruise lines to encourage even more passengers to participate in shore-based activities, and we are also working with tourism operators to develop experiences that best meet the needs of cruise visitors.”
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Source: ABC News