The general manager of Brisbane based Clean Cruising, Dan Russell is calling for an opening of travel freedom for vaccinated Australians to be extended to cruise passengers as part of an urgent need for a plan to restart the cruise industry.
Amid a proposed government pathway for vaccinated Australians to be free to travel again, Dan Russell who heads up a Brisbane travel company with a national footprint specialising in cruising said today that plans to enable the restart of cruising should proceed as a matter of urgency.
Mr Russell said that as things stand the worst of the pandemic crisis was still to come for many travel agencies including those with a strong connection to cruising.
Many businesses he said, who have already been forced to shed staff, now faced even tougher decisions with little prospect of cruising being allowed to resume before the end of the year.
“Scott Morrison’s move to determine vaccination thresholds to enable vaccinated Australians to travel gives some hope that this will also apply to people wanting to cruise,” Mr Russell said.
“The fact that Mr Morrison is moving in this direction makes it even more imperative for federal and state governments to agree on a pathway for the resumption of domestic cruising.”
Mr Russell said the current position was grim. A number of cruise lines that normally base ships in Australia year-round have extended their suspension of operations until mid-December while other international cruise lines have cancelled planned Australian seasons completely.
“Recent outbreaks of covid in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia, and the extension of the suspension of cruising by cruise lines, could tempt the Federal Government to go slow on agreeing to a plan for the resumption of domestic cruising,” Mr Russell said.
“Nothing could be more damaging for the travel sector currently in limbo in the absence of a plan for the restart of the $5 billion a year cruise industry. Having no plan means that these companies cannot do any business planning including making decisions in relation to staff retention.
“Even under the best-case scenario, it now appears likely that no cruise ships will return to Australia for up to six months. By then, the proportion of fully vaccinated Australians will be significantly higher making the resumption of cruising viable.
“However, we cannot afford to wait six months for a restart plan to be agreed because of the long lead time for the return of ships to Australia. It needs to happen now and as a matter of urgency.”
Mr Russell said a recent visit to Brisbane’s new, but still unused, international cruise terminal by hundreds of travel agents had served to highlight the crisis they faced.
He said the terminal was a source of pride that Australia now had a state-of-the-art cruise terminal but also frustration that it is no closer to having its first cruise ship alongside eight months after its completion.
“With its world-class design, proximity to the airport and geographic benefits close to Queensland and South Pacific cruise destinations, the terminal represents the future of homeport cruising from Australia for decades to come,” Mr Russell said.
“Our economy is likely to be stronger than other parts of the world coming out of the pandemic and many ships will eventually return to these waters in the same way that capacity increased following the GFC.
“We have had long enough in the doldrums and it is time to plot a course to get Australians travelling again by air, land and sea. The government needs to work with the industry to develop this restart plan and we need to see it soon.”
Mr Russell said experience in other parts of the world where cruising has resumed has already confirmed that widespread vaccination combined with onboard protocols were the key to the safe return of cruising.
He said that even in two cases where covid had been detected, there was no outbreak because passengers had been vaccinated.
“It showed that vaccination combined with strict health protocols provide a sound basis for the return of cruising and that it can happen here as well,” Mr Russell said. “Our message to the government is not to be put off from agreeing to a plan.”
Responding to last weeks National Cabinet announcement on a phased pathway for the easing of travel restrictions, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz also said that governments need to include carefully managed domestic cruise operations within the early stages of their plans.
“Australia is now the only major cruise market in the world where no progress has been made towards a responsible cruise resumption. We need urgent action from governments to save jobs and revive economic opportunities for communities around the country.” He said.
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