Fremantle: Coral Princess brings big spenders and excitement to port city’s hospitality and retail venues
Cruising’s return to Fremantle has provided “the best day of sales” in recent memory for port city hospitality and retail stores.
The Coral Princess’ arrival in Fremantle last Friday marked the first cruise ship visit in more than two-and-a-half years, bringing not just a swathe of big-spending tourists but a sense of excitement to local streets and shops.
Concerns over an onboard COVID-19 outbreak proved a non-event on dry land as plenty of tourists flocked to the cappuccino strip and local bars and eateries to enjoy the sunny day out.
Fremantle Market chief executive Natasha Atkinson said there was a “noticeable difference” at the markets.
“The COVID scare was a non-event on the ground in Fremantle; it felt like life pre-COVID,” Ms Atkinson said.
“Cruise ships are a sign of life returning to normal … for two years we didn’t have tourists, so this is very exciting.
“There were crowds waiting at the gate at 9am to get into the market. Travellers were out and about enjoying themselves and the market tenants weren’t worried about the ship -— it was a lovely atmosphere.”
National Hotel co-owner Karl Bullers said the hotel’s Friday lunch trade boomed and there was also an uptick in accommodation bookings, with “people staying immediately prior or immediately after a cruise”.
“Friday was the best daytime taking we have done in quite a while. I would estimate a 25 per cent increase in food and beverage sales for the daytime,” Mr Bullers said.
“We have certainly missed the cruise ships. They do have a positive impact on the local economy.
“Freo has struggled for a long time with its weekday economy … it really boosts the number of people in the town centre. It’s a good vibe, everyone’s in a holiday mood.”
The ship had reported an undisclosed number of virus cases among passengers and crew as it headed towards Fremantle although its operator, Carnival Australia, said most of its 2000 guests had been unaffected.
All passengers had to have a rapid antigen test before they could make their way to shore.
The Coral Princess was the first passenger liner to pull into Fremantle since Gage Roads opened its giant brewpub on the waterfront.
Staff at the pub said their weekend trade was fairly consistent with weekend expectations, but did notice and enjoyed having more tourists stopping at the venue.
“We are stoked to see this area of Freo activated with cruise ships back in town,” head of hospitality Lee Behan said.
“Tourism adds an extra layer to Fremantle and makes it even more special.”
Chamber of Commerce chief executive Danicia Quinlan echoed the sentiments of business owners who were thrilled to see so much activity.
“It’s great to be able to drive down Peter Hughes Drive and see (the Coral Princess) in port and to look out on to the street and see so many people walking about, holding their maps and investigating the city,” Ms Quinlan said.
“You could visibly see the efforts and precautions they took to protect our community and for our businesses that are designed to engage with overseas visitors, the return of cruising is a welcome symbol that life might actually and slowly be returning to some form of normality”.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth is the next ship due in Fremantle on Monday, November 7, as WA gears up to welcome more than 10,000 passengers between now and December.
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