Western Australia’s Kimberley region risks losing its status as Australia’s premier expedition cruise destination without detailed plans to support the return of broader expedition sailings in 2022, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has warned.
Following the announcement of a major tourism campaign by the Government of Western Australia, CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said it was vital that plans to revive tourism included a detailed pathway to support small-scale expedition cruising for ships of up to 200 passengers, which ordinarily generate millions of dollars a year for the Kimberley and communities along the state’s northern coast.
“The suspension of cruising has been devastating for thousands of Australians who depend on cruising, including many in communities where expedition ships are a vital source of tourism,” Mr Katz said.
“Expedition ships provide an excellent opportunity to begin a carefully controlled resumption of cruising with extensive health measures in place, but we need the federal, state and territory governments to urgently agree on health protocols before the upcoming winter season is lost.”
Mr Katz said ships with under 100 people on board were already sailing successfully in Australia with tried and tested COVID-19 health measures in place, including in the Kimberley.
Allowing other expedition operators with up to 200 passengers to return to Western Australia and the Northern Territory – with similar robust health protocols including testing and vaccination requirements for all passengers and crew – would provide much-needed tourism income for communities in the country’s north-west.
“Cruising has changed enormously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are successful in mitigating the risks of COVID-19,” Mr Katz said.
“With vaccination rates increasing and borders opening, we need agreement on the way forward for expedition cruise ships before the upcoming Kimberley season is lost and travellers look to destinations overseas.”
Mr Katz said it would take several months of preparations before cruise ships could return to Australian waters.
“Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that all governments and health authorities work closely with industry now to establish detailed operational plans ahead of resumption,” Mr Katz said.
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