TOURISM BOON: P&O's Pacific Jewel anchors off Mooloolaba on a beautiful and perfect winter's day.
TOURISM BOON: P&O's Pacific Jewel anchors off Mooloolaba on a beautiful and perfect winter's day. John McCutcheon

Sunshine Coast becoming the dreamboat of cruise tourism

AN INDUSTRY event in Mooloolaba has laid the groundwork for further growth in cruise ship tourism on the Sunshine Coast, after a booming year in arrivals for the region.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said the annual Australian Cruise Association Conference, held this week on the Coast after a successful bid for the event,

"It was a great opportunity to bring the key decision makers from the biggest shipping companies in the world, not just Australia, to Mooloolaba so we could show them why they should be sending more ships here," Mr Latchford said.

Mr Latchford said cruise tourism was booming and ship builds were, globally, at an all-time high.

"It's very, very popular globally, not just nationally," he said.

While businesses in the Mooloolaba area takes the lion's share of the estimated $250,000 each cruise ship contributes to the region, Mr Latchford said the ease of access to some of the Coast's greatest attractions helped spread the tourism boon throughout the region.

"We can access things like Eumundi Markets very easily, Australia Zoo, Ginger Factory, and all of the different attractions across the region in very short time," he said.

"That has always been one of the Sunshine Coast's biggest assets, but it's under-recognised and under-utilised.

"For us to be able to flow that wealth through the whole of the community is much, much easier here, because we have that small geographical footprint."

A Sunshine Coast Council spokesman said the average group size on Mooloolaba-bound ships was 5.8 people and 76% of the passengers were aged between 25-65, which suggested more multi-generational travel groups were visiting on cruises. 

"Almost 90% of the passengers surveyed indicated a high level of satisfaction with the destination and 81% indicated they were likely to return," the spokesman said.

"Satisfaction levels of passengers visiting Mooloolaba are the highest of any of the Queensland ports and compare favourably with unique destinations such as Kangaroo Island."

Mr Latchford said the Coast offered a natural beauty and safe harbour that fully compensated for its lack of a man-made wharf big enough to accommodate a cruise ship.

"I believe that one of the Sunshine Coast's enormous competitive advantages is we have this extraordinary collection of natural amphitheatres, as I call them, and Mooloolaba harbour is one of those examples," he said.

"Given the overwhelming statistical evidence globally that humans are looking for authentic experiences that are unique, everyone's got a wharf, not everyone has what we have here."