The fed-up and highly frustrated cruise industry has demanded a date be set to resume sailing now that a trans-Tasman bubble has been established, warning 25,000 jobs are at risk.
The Australian cruise industry has been shut down for more than 12 months following the outbreak of coronavirus and the Ruby Princess debacle, which has been linked to more than 660 cases and 28 deaths.
However, since Tuesday’s announcement that a trans-Tasman bubble would begin on April 19, allowing quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia, the cruise industry wants to be included.
Industry leaders have been lobbying for intrastate cruises but now believe trans-Tasman sailings should be put on the agenda and a date nominated for their return, which would reignite 25,000 jobs.
“Many of these workers have been reliant on JobKeeper during the suspension and won’t necessarily benefit from the federal government’s latest initiatives targeting tourism,” Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasian spokesman Joel Katz said.
Mr Katz has been leading the negotiations with the state and federal governments on behalf of the world’s cruise lines.
“The announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble is a positive step forward for tourism in Australia and New Zealand, particularly for the many thousands of travel agents and other businesses that have been devastated by border restrictions over the past year,” he said.
“However, the trans-Tasman bubble highlights the lack of progress being made towards a responsible resumption of local cruise operations, without which an estimated 25,000 jobs are at risk across the region.
“Now is the time for governments in Australia and New Zealand to progress a phased and strictly controlled resumption of local cruising, operating for locals-only within domestic boundaries or within the trans-Tasman bubble.”
CLIA estimates 18,000 of the 25,000 jobs that will be reignited when the industry starts sailing again would be in Australia.
They include tour operators, farmers, food producers, beverage providers, transport companies and travel agents.
Mr Katz said the industry had developed highly responsible COVID-19 protocols that were already in practice around the world where sailings had begun, and there had yet to be any transmission of the virus.
“Cruise lines globally have committed to extensive new health protocols in response to COVID-19, including 100 per cent testing of all guests and crew,” he said.
“These measures are among the most comprehensive of any industry worldwide and are already working successfully in several countries overseas.”
For 10 months, Dream Cruises has been conducting intra-country cruises – mainly island hopping – within Taiwan’s territory, while Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises have been cruising within Singaporean waters since late 2020.
In May, Royal Caribbean will resume sailing in Israel and in the Bahamas and Mexico in June, while Ovation of the Seas is scheduled to dock in Sydney on October 16.
Last month, Health Minister Greg Hunt extended the international travel ban a further three months until June 17, putting any cruising on hold until the second half of 2021.
“The Australian government continues to work closely with the cruise industry to develop a framework for the staged resumption of cruise ships in a manner that is proportionate to the public health risk,” he said at the time.
A Carnival Australia spokesman said it was awaiting a pathway for the “careful resumption” of cruising based on their health protocols and procedures.
Under the COVID-safe guidelines, passengers and crew must test negative for coronavirus before boarding as well as undergo temperature checks on-board, passengers must maintain social distancing and there is no casino, buffets or spas.