With the construction and completion of the Quayside Cruise Terminal and Berth 10 in 2013, coupled with the variety and diversity of shore excursions and activities available to passengers, Townsville North Queensland is an attractive cruise destination.
Within five minutes of disembarking in Townsville, passengers can be discovering the revitalised Townsville CBD. In 10 minutes they can be hiking, biking and bird watching in Wetlands of international importance. In 30 minutes they can be in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or on a tropical island, and within 90 minutes they can be in the Australian Outback, a National Park or discovering a World Heritage listed rainforest.
Townsville Enterprise has identified the cruise market as one with significant potential to boost the region’s visitation and help reach the goal of doubling visitor expenditure by the year 2020.The cruise industry is the fastest growing travel sector in the world, recording strong growth globally. The cruise industry provides $5.28B to the Australian economy.
Cruising in Australia
The number of cruise ships calling to Queensland destinations has doubled in the past eight years, with projections for the 2016-17 season an even brighter outlook. During 2014-15, 275 ships visited Queensland with over 645,900 passengers experiencing the diverse range of destinations that Queensland offers. Australia is now ranked 5th as a global cruise destination with 3.6% global passenger share.
Queensland is the second largest Australian cruise shipping market in terms of activity and industry expenditure and Townsville has been identified as one of Queensland’s major cruise ship destinations. The number of anchoring cruise ships in Townsville increased to eight in the 2016-17 cruise ship season, welcoming 7,030 passengers and 5,212 crew. These cruise ship visits generated over $2.95M in economic expenditure for the Townsville North Queensland region and provided $1.6 million in local wages.
Cruise Ship Season
The traditional Australian cruise ship season formerly ran from November to March, as ships sailed to the Southern Hemisphere to escape the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. However the season has expanded to now welcome cruise ship passengers and crew all year round, providing the opportunity for cruising visitors to enjoy Townsville North Queensland's stunning winter weather. Visiting ships provide a significant boost to Townsville North Queensland's local economy, spreading the economic benefit that visitors provide across a full 12 months. Cruise ships offer the opportunity to support local businesses, encourage investment, product development and sustained employment opportunities.
Cruise Product Development - Shore Excursions
Townsville Enterprise works with local operators to assist them in developing their tourism product for the cruise market. Inbound Tourism Operators (ITOs) act as the middle man, on-selling local products to cruise ships to sell to passengers. To be considered by an ITO to sell your product on-board your product needs to be established, commissionable and flexible – as ships often make changes to tours and itineraries up to just a few hours before they are set to depart.
For local tourism operators, there are two ways to get involved:
>> Be a part of a pre-determined shore excursion through a 'ground handler'
Ground handlers, also known as Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs), are specialists who design suitable shore excursions by packaging a range of products from a particular cruise destination and on-sell these tours/activities to cruise lines for sale on board the ship prior to arrival at the destination.
- TIP – Timing is Essential! Make contact with a ground handler in October and follow up in March for the potential inclusion of your product in the following year’s season.
>> Provide an experience to passengers not pre-booked on a shore excursion
Not every cruise passenger goes on a shore excursion when visiting a destination. The majority, approximately 80%, do at some point along their journey, and of those, 75% participate in pre-arranged tours/activities, leaving a significant number of individuals who are Free Independent Travellers (FITs) who do their own exploring.
- TIP – Quality Information! FITs need quality information delivered on the day by volunteers at the cruise ship information desk. Be sure your product is being promoted to these passengers by supporting Townsville Enterprise.
Create an Attractive Shore Excursion
“Itinerary planners are looking for diversity of experience for their passengers. So if the vessel has called Cairns the day before and visited off-shore reefs they will be looking to create a different experience in Townsville. …..whatever it is, it needs to be different to the day before.”
– Ground Handler
Every cruise itinerary and shore excursion program is scrutinised for its revenue potential by cruise lines and unless they meet a specific criteria they are not accepted. The development of a shore excursion that considers the nationality, age, special interests and number of passengers associated with a specific cruise ship will have more likelihood of being included as part of that cruise ship’s shore excursion program in comparison to one that has not.
Cruise Ship Welcome Crew
Townsville Enterprise also manages the Townsville North Queensland Tourism Volunteer Program, of which a multitude of volunteers provide a friendly welcome to cruise ship passengers and crew visiting the region at Quayside Terminal and various touch points around the Townsville CBD.
In 2018, 19 cruise ships are expected to visit the region with the Volunteers preparing to welcome in excess of 15,000 passengers and 8,000 crew in 2018, marking an increase of 33% visitor numbers from this sector. Townsville Enterprise Tourism Volunteers committed 644 hours in welcoming 12, 668 cruise ship passengers and crew during 2017.