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"Cruise ban extension 'torture' for travel and tourism sector," Dan Russell, Clean Cruising

In his latest opinion piece, Clean Cruising's Dan Russell says "The Federal Government’s two-month extension of its ban on cruise ships is slowly strangling many businesses that depend on cruising."

In his latest opinion piece, Clean Cruising’s Dan Russell says “The Federal Government’s two-month extension of its ban on cruise ships is slowly strangling many businesses that depend on cruising.”

Dan Russell, General Manager of the Brisbane-based and family-owned Clean Cruising, said those affected by the rolling cruise ban were beyond furious and regarded the failure to address a resumption plan as a form of slow torture for businesses that are treading water and trying to save their remaining staff.

“Optimism had been growing that the federal government was preparing to lift its biosecurity ban on international cruise ships but these hopes were dashed with the announcement of the extended ban to February 17,” Mr Russell said.

“On this basis, no one can now reasonably expect any cruise ship to be back in Australia in the first half of 2022 or even later.

“The frustration of travel agents and others that are affected is that after more than 20 months federal and state authorities have made no genuine attempt to set the guidelines for the resumption of cruising.

“We now know that it is not even enough for Canberra to step out of the way. It is then up to the states to allow cruise ships to enter their ports.

“Canberra must not only engage itself but also push the states along to achieve a restart. We need a cruise restart plan now or thousands more jobs and small businesses will be lost.”

Dan Russell

Mr Russell said Clean Cruising, which his family had established 21 years ago, entered the pandemic with a team of 50 but was now desperately trying to hold on to its remaining 20 travel specialists who continued to support customers from almost every postcode in the country.

He said he had been “gravely concerned” that Canberra’s cruise ban could be extended beyond the current December 17 but it had still come as a shock when it was pushed out to February 17.

“With Australia’s high vaccination rate, which now includes 80 per cent double-dose in Queensland, there can be no reasonable health basis to extend the cruise ship ban a day longer,” Mr Russell said.

“Cruises now operate safely from more than 60 countries with proven layers of strict protocols and with fully-vaccinated passengers and crew.

“There is clear and compelling evidence of successful overseas cruise resumptions. More than three-quarters of the world’s cruise ships are now operating.

“We have reached the astonishing point where Australians, including our own clients, can fly overseas and get on a cruise but they cannot sail along their own coastline.

“More than five million passengers have cruised, confirming that mandatory vaccination and onboard health protocols are working. What medical advice was considered to extend the ban if it did not include the overwhelming evidence from the successful overseas restart?”

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line

Underlining the urgent need for a cruise restart plan, Mr Russell said customer behaviour showed there was a strong appetite for local cruising even amid the current uncertainty.

Clean Cruising was taking bookings on more than 30 ships that are scheduled for Australian domestic cruises next summer visiting more than 80 coastal communities.

“These ships are scheduled to visit coastal communities where local businesses have been smashed by the loss of opportunity caused by the pandemic,” Mr Russell said.

“The last thing they want or need is more inertia from federal and state governments that prevents the ships from sailing again with cruise tourists due to spend more than $2 billion between September 2022 and April 2023.

“This is all at risk if we do not get a restart plan in place immediately. Eighty per cent of cruise holidays are booked by travel agents and the agents who are left post-pandemic will be vital in helping Aussies cruise again, and indeed travel overseas safely again.

“Our industry has taken one for “Team Australia” for long enough. We were told it’s not a race and have been patient for almost 2 years. We were told to wait until the vaccines arrived, then we were told to wait until we reached herd immunity which moved from 70 to 80 to 90 per cent.

“Now that we’re here, we still don’t have a restart plan and there can be no reasonable justification. If both state and federal governments are serious about jobs and livelihoods, they’ll act now and get a restart plan in place.”