The local head of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Joel Katz, has insisted the Australian Government provide a much-needed path forward for the resumption of ocean cruising in the region. His rhetoric comes after the Australian Government confirmed a further three-month extension of its biosecurity emergency period, now until 17 September 2021.
The latest extension pushes Australia’s rigid COVID-19 travel and cruise restrictions to a term of 18 consecutive months. The emergency determinations cover four key areas; mandatory pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights; restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory; restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians and restrictions on trade of retail outlets at international airports.
Katz, the Managing Director of CLIA Australasia, warned the government’s lack of a plan for the future was causing lasting damage to the economy and putting 18,000 Australian jobs in doubt.
He said it was now time for the Federal Government to “take real steps towards establishing a plan for future cruise operations”
“Our industry needs some certainty, but after months of discussions with government, the suspension has been extended again without any clear route from government towards a careful and responsible resumption of cruising,” Katz said.
“The cruise industry has done an enormous amount of work to implement extensive new health protocols globally, but Australia is now the only major cruise destination in the world where there is no progress towards their adoption.”
“The cruise industry is not asking for special treatment or to simply reopen the doors to cruising,” Katz said. “Our industry has been working in good faith with the government for more than a year, and we’ve presented some of the most stringent COVID-19 measures to be found anywhere in tourism, developed with the support of medical experts, and we need governments to take the next steps forward.”
The suspension of cruising is estimated to have cost the Australian economy up to $6 billion since March 2020 and threatens thousands of local businesses including travel agents, tour operators, farmers and food suppliers, transport providers and technical support providers.
“Our industry’s new health measures are already in place and working successfully in other countries where cruising has resumed,” Katz said.
“It’s now time to break the cycle of inaction in Australia and finalise the pathway forward.”
Tom Manwaring, Chair of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) said the decision to extend the international travel ban wasn’t a surprise, based on the slow take up of the COVID-vaccination.
“We look forward to the ongoing adoption of common-sense positive measures to get Australians travelling again including the impending introduction of more Safe Travel Zones with selected “Green” destinations.”
“We need more Australians getting vaccinated and being encouraged to get vaccinated.”
“We need greater clarity on the decision triggers for Government on re-opening our international border.”
Manwaring added, “Most of all we need ongoing support for Australia’s travel agents and businesses who are performing such important work in supporting customers and whose skill and expertise will be so heavily relied on as Australians start travelling again given the complexities of COVID-travel.”