At this month’s ordinary monthly meeting Clarence Valley Council will be considering whether or not to give in principle support to the NSW Government’s proposal to designate the Port of Yamba as a cruise ship destination and possibly build a cruise ship terminal in the Clarence River estuary.
The state government appears to be presenting this proposal as a way to increase the annual regional income of the Clarence Valley. But is it?
Nowhere have I found any mention of the business model employed by the global cruise ship industry; an industry which seeks to create demand through the judicious use of political donations and paid lobbyists.
According to Professor Ross Klein, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland; “Standing up to a cruise line can sometimes be difficult, especially given the industry’s generous contributions to political campaigns, their active lobbying efforts, and their degree of influence with mass media”.
In the first instance the business model used by cruise ship operators seeks to have passengers spend most of their money on-board the ship.
So many of the traditional services supplied on a cruise are no longer covered by the upfront cost of the fare and attract an additional charge per use.
Any land-based tours or shopping trips are organised by the cruise operator and the fee for participation is paid by passengers directly to this shipping company.
The fee paid by the cruise operator to a land-based tour business contracted to supply the actual service usually ranges from as little as 10% up to an est. 50% of the fee paid by passengers
Even when passengers leave the ship to wander around coastal zone towns you can bet that the cruise ship operator will have approached local businesses requesting a fee to include these businesses on a list of recommended shops/cafes/hotels/clubs – because that is part of the business model.
What is worse is that once the cruise industry becomes established in a small port there is evidence to suggest that the regular incursion of up to 350 passengers at a time into coastal towns sees a decrease in the number of land-based tourists who now see these towns as crowded and impersonal – no longer offering an intimate holiday experience.
It is these land-based tourists who fill Yamba and Iluka’s camping grounds, motels, hotels and holiday units and, are more likely to patronise the full range of dining/entertainment/sporting experiences on offer. So to see a significant proportion of them replaced by cruise passengers over time is not likely to compensate for the risk of economic loss during peak holiday periods in the Lower Clarence.
The first small cruise ship is due in Yamba on or about 24 October 2018 and this is it’s published itinerary: arrive during breakfast, disembark to visit “Flinders Well, Yamba Lighthouse, and the Yamba Historical Museum” or alternatively walk in the Iluka Nature Reserve, return to ship for lunch and depart in the afternoon.
Now I may be naïve but that itinerary doesn’t exactly ring the till in a big way for businesses in Yamba or Iluka.
Interested readers can find more information in the presentations included in the report of an international symposium held in 2013 which can be found at http://www.jbna.org/IS%20-%20Charleston-Report.pdf. For an idea of how many of these not-so-small cruise ships come into a regional harbour once berthing facilities are established see https://www.portauthoritynsw.com.au/port-of-eden/port-services-facilities/eden-cruise-schedule/.
Judith M. Melville,