A Brisbane-based travel advisor, whose family-owned and operated agency specialises in cruising, this week joined a cruise supplier delegation to Federal Parliament in Canberra calling for a pathway for the resumption of domestic cruises in Australia to save jobs.
Dan Russell, general manager and director of Clean Cruising, said businesses that relied on the cruise sector were “dying by a thousand cuts” with the rolling suspension of cruising in the absence of a plan to restart operations.
Mr Russell said his company had a national footprint after 13 years of growth specialising in cruise and was in a strong position prior to the pandemic with a 50-strong team of skilled employees.
Fifteen mostly younger consultants had already been lost, “a precious resource” that the company would need to win back “on the other side” of the pandemic. The company was now battling to save its senior consultants, mostly women aged 40 to 67, who had built strong careers in travel over a period of decades.
Mr Russell said his company is losing money “hand over first” while it fights to retain such an experienced team in the hope that cruise ships can return and jobs can be saved.
“It is impossible to do any business planning with the rolling three month extension to the cruise ban and no clear direction on when cruising will resume,” Mr Russell said.
“Every three months we expect a roadmap and we just get more uncertainty. We need a plan, we need clarity. We desperately need some ships to get up and running this summer. There are many skilled jobs at stake, which will be lost to the industry forever.”
Mr Russell travelled to Canberra this week joining a group of cruise industry suppliers who on Thursday attended a function to which Federal MPs, whose electorates benefit from the economic contribution of cruising, were invited.
The delegation is representative of fresh produce suppliers, travel advisors, shore tour operators, marine engineering support services and entertainers who are among many businesses and individuals that depend on cruising but are facing an uncertain future.
Last week, the Federal Government announced that its biosecurity determination, which prevents cruise operations in Australia, had been extended by a further three months to September 17. Mr Russell said it was shattering to learn of the extension knowing that no plan was in place for the resumption of domestic cruising.
He said his business had done everything possible to survive the pandemic and save jobs but the lack of a resumption plan was disheartening. When the pandemic hit, arrangements were put in place within two weeks to ensure business continuity with consultants set up with technology needed to work from home.
“We hunkered down and had three goals – to keep our team intact, to keep customer relationships intact and to keep our trade partnerships intact,” Mr Russell said.
“JobKeeper helped immensely to keep hold of our team but now we desperately need clarity to plan our way forward. Cruise holiday specialists right around the country are all in the same boat and their expert advice will be vital in helping Australians return safely to the sea.
“Sydney Harbour and the new state-of-the-art Brisbane International Cruise Terminal are perfectly suited to safely rebuild this key tourism sector, starting with a phased resumption of local cruises for locals only.
“Both NSW and Queensland state governments can also lead the way here and demonstrate they’re capable of getting ships moving safely again, saving thousands of local jobs in the process. This will require close collaboration with the Federal Government to work through and deliver the resumption roadmap. Cruising has been in the too hard basket for long enough and we can’t wait any longer for a clear restart plan.”
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