Wollongong shops urged to open on public holiday

GONG BOUND: Voyager of the Seas passengers will visit the Illawarra on December 27, docking at Port Kembla from 8am before leaving at 5pm. Picture: Supplied

GONG BOUND: Voyager of the Seas passengers will visit the Illawarra on December 27, docking at Port Kembla from 8am before leaving at 5pm. Picture: Supplied

Wollongong’s peak tourism body has called on CBD businesses to open their doors on a public holiday to accommodate thousands disembarking from a Royal Caribbean cruise-liner.

Voyager of the Seas will dock at Port Kembla Harbour on December 27, a public holiday for Christmas which falls on a Sunday, carrying 4200 passengers and 1200 crew.

The main drop-off point for people eager to shop and sight-see will be the arts precinct next to the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.

Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said the Australian Cruise Association estimates around $897,000 would be spent in the Illawarra with each ship, so the benefits outweighed the negatives of paying extra penalties on wages for the day.

“Certainly it’s a challenging date for a lot of people but we really need to look at the long term opportunity,” Mr Sleigh said.

“There’s nothing worse than hearing stories of people getting off at a port and everything’s closed up on a Sunday.

“What we’re talking about is bringing a new industry to town and hopefully that grows exponentially over the coming years and people see benefits 50 days of the year, not just one.”

He said when smaller vessel Radiance of the Seas docked in October, around 20 per cent of passengers booked pre-purchased tours around the region (such as to Symbio Wildlife Park or Nan Tien Temple) while “a large portion” of the remaining 80 per cent spent money around the CBD.

Meantime, South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said before employers start complaining about paying their staff extra over the holidays, businesses should focus on ensuring they are paying correct wages and not “cheating”.

“By all means we want to do business and we want to take advantage of the tourism economy and the benefits but not at the expense of those workers who are spending their time during this holiday period actually doing the work,” Mr Rorris said.

Given the expose by Fairfax over the weekend [uncovering numerous Illawarra businesses severely underpaying staff], it would be great if many of our small business owners focused on ensuring they’re actually paying the award rates to start with before … complaining about penalty rates.”

Voyager of the Seas will return to the region again on January 18, with hope other cruise liners will sign up to also dock at Port Kembla.

EXCITED: Destination Wollongong's Tanya Brown and Mark Sleigh, plus Councillor Leigh Colacino, hope the cruise industry stays in the region. Picture: Adam McLean

EXCITED: Destination Wollongong’s Tanya Brown and Mark Sleigh, plus Councillor Leigh Colacino, hope the cruise industry stays in the region. Picture: Adam McLean

Destination Wollongong chair Tania Brown added Wollongong is in a better position than Newcastle, who recently had construction approved for a new cruise ship terminal, because the Illawarra is “shovel ready”.

“We can work with what we’ve already got; we don’t need to the government to spend more money on facilities,” Ms Brown said.

She also urged all residents to embrace their city as “everyone’s an ambassador”.

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