Interest grows in Gladstone as cruise destination

HEIGHTENED interest in Gladstone as a cruise destination has seen one company float the idea of buying islands in the southern Great Barrier Reef to give its passengers premium access to the Great Barrier Reef.

That's the demand in this region as a tourism destination.

And while GAPDL's tourism manager Karen Sweeney explained there were strict government processes in place around any interest of that sort, she did say that company's enquiry, which her organisation received in March, was one of many signs cruise liners, other than P&O, have plans to start docking at Gladstone.

Ms Sweeney said cruise liners were turning to Gladstone to find a solution to a "capacity issue" plaguing Queensland's $750 million cruise market, as demand increased 15.5% last year.

Tourism Queensland's cruise ship boss Julie O'Brien said Gladstone's "proximity to the reef" and a deep port were behind the increase interest. Gladstone, Townsville and Brisbane are the only Queensland ports where ships can re-fuel, which Ms O'Brien called "a pleasant addition to the matrix of additions that cruise ships looks for".

Arrival of the Pacific Dawn, Thursday, March 10, 2016. Photo Helen Spelitis / Gladstone Observer
Arrival of the Pacific Dawn, Thursday, March 10, 2016. Photo Helen Spelitis / Gladstone Observer Helen Spelitis

Ms Sweeney is getting calls from cruise line giants desperate to know if Gladstone's port can fit a ship packed with 6000 passengers, which it can, much larger than this year's P&O Cruise ships which brought 2000 each.

It comes as cruise ship passenger numbers on Queensland's coast jumped from around 500,000 to 645,000 in the past year.

GAPDL will also send representatives to Brisbane next week to sell our port to more cruise liners, including Royal Caribbean and Abercrombie & Kent Australia

LISTEN: What cruise ship companies have planned for Gladstone

But she said it's just the "tip of the iceberg" as P&O "put their money on Gladstone and everyone has been sitting back and waiting to see how it goes".

Nine of 10 passengers surveyed by P&O after it first docked in Gladstone in March said the trip "exceeded their expectations".

Ms O'Brien said that as momentum builds among passengers demanding to stop in Gladstone, more companies would put in.

"It's an unknown region to the domestic tourists," she said. "You've not played those opportunities yet."

"When we get a few more ships under our belt, more opportunity will come.

"[Gladstone] doesn't have that traction that other places have had, and that brings curiosity."

The next P&O cruise arrives in Gladstone next Thursday.

LISTEN: How to connect your business with passengers

SO, WHY THE INTEREST IN CRUISING TO GLADSTONE?

Fewer stingers, more turtles and manta rays and quick access to the reef on a 10 minute boat ride, among a litany of other attractions are behind heightened interest.

David Attenborough's recent documentary has also "raised Heron Island's profile" according to Karen Sweeney.



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