The head of one of Queensland’s biggest travel agencies said today it was astonishing to learn that Queensland Health is yet to meet the cruise industry to discuss resumption plans as local travel companies continue to fight for survival.
Dan Russell, GM of Clean Cruising, which for 14 years has specialised in cruise travel holidays, said the lack of action was in stark contrast to the speed applied to enable the NRL to relocate north of the border.
Russell said his family owned and operated company was among many businesses in Queensland that depended on cruising and who were now fighting for survival.
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According to Russell’s industry sources, more than 700 cruise specialist travel agencies in Australia have closed their doors — around one in four have walked away. Nearly 5,600 cruise specialist travel consultants — more than half of those working in the pre-pandemic industry — have gone. Queensland was not immune from the travel shakeout with nearly 200 cruise specialist agencies — close to a third — now inactive.
“This is devastating industry intelligence,” Russell said.
“Businesses like mine that are treading water could be forgiven for thinking that while rugby league gets a free pass, the cruise connected sector cops the boot,” he said.
“Cruising has been put in the ‘too hard’ basket for long enough and the department can no longer refuse to meet with the industry. After 16 months, it is already well overdue.”
Russell said that Queensland State Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe had stated that “any proposal to reintroduce cruise ships to Queensland waters would need to start with a COVID-safe plan approved by Queensland’s chief health officer.”
The Clean Cruising boss said Hinchcliffe would be aware that such plans already exist and have allowed many overseas countries to resume operation as far back as July 2020 when Dream Cruises restarted sailings from Taiwan.
“The Tourism Minister also knows how cruising had been booming in our state prior to the pandemic, supporting 3,500 jobs with more than $500 million spent in Queensland ports and communities in 2019 alone,” Russell said.
“Nearly $200 million has been invested in the new state-of-the-art Brisbane International Cruise Terminal, which has been good to go since last October. It will sadly continue to gather dust and more job losses will occur until the state considers the COVID-safe plans that have been sitting in the drawer for months.
“If the department can make time to review plans to accommodate rugby league up here, how can it not even make the time to review plans to restart one of the state’s key tourism sectors?
“The Sunshine State should lead the nation’s cruise restart with its new terminal, gorgeous coastal destinations and excellent record with COVID. Imagine if, ultimately, the first ship to resume domestic cruising sailed out of Sydney Harbour and not from Brisbane’s new terminal.
“That would represent one of the greatest ‘origin’ losses ever to NSW. It’s time to review the industry’s COVID-safe plan and to make Queensland the focal point for the safe restart of cruising.”
Russell said that in contrast, the Federal Member Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, is actively seeking federal support for a pathway for the resumption of cruising.
Fifteen other federal MPs including a number from Queensland coastal electorates had signed a joint letter calling for action in this regard.
“I am very worried about the cruise industry,” Entsch told The Australian.
“First up for me is to give them a date to work with them to establish protocols such as 100 per cent vaccinations. We need to start planning and allow them to take bookings, we can start with baby steps,” he said.
Lead image: Brisbane International Cruise Terminal lies idle | Source: Facebook/Ports of Brisbane