With cruise ships now allowed to float around the Kimberley unrestricted, an exciting year awaits for the region’s cruise industry with a number of new vessels entering setting sail in 2023. On a recent trip to Broome, Australian Cruise Association chief executive Jill Abel sat down with the Advertiser to talk about the year ahead for the Kimberley cruise industry. “The 2023 season is looking as strong if not stronger than pre-COVID,” she said. “Last season it was just beginning, the restart phase, and that’s been a challenge everywhere around the country. “When you shut down an industry for two and a half years it doesn’t just start back up from where it left off and everyone’s felt that so it’s exciting to be moving back into the 2023 season up here in a more settled way.” The Kimberley’s unique and breathtaking landscapes are such a hit with tourists that new operators have flocked to the region to start providing tourist experiences, Ms Abel said. “The appeal of the Kimberley is so high that there are a number of new operators starting up here,” she said. “It’s just extraordinary. It’s quite a unique place in the world and the pearling and cultural history here makes it a meaningful attraction.” But tourists aren’t the only ones to benefit with Kimberley businesses able to take advantage of the influx of new customers coming from cruise ships, Ms Abel said. “What’s exciting in that growth is having greater connections with the local tourism operators and making sure that economic benefit gets spread as widely as possible,” she said. “It’s not just a tourism benefit, there’s an employment benefit, a benefit in terms of aquaculture and agriculture as well.” But with the new influx of cruise ships logistical issues may occur, according to Coral Expeditions commercial director Jeff Gillies who flagged potential overcrowding in the region in November. But Ms Abel said the concerns were mostly unfounded. “There’s an enormous amount of experience here locally,” she said. “The Port of Broome is completely committed to growing the local cruise industry and making sure it’s done in a safe and successful way from an operational perspective.” The Port of Broome has more than 70 cruise ship calls set for the 2023 season with the first cruise ship, the Coral Princess, sailing into Broome on March 2.