Cruise fans and business owners are being asked to contact local MPs in a new campaign designed to press the government to allow Australian sailings again.

Australia still hasn’t announced when cruise ships can return to Australian waters, leaving 18,000 with no certainty over their livelihoods and costing the country $5 billion in lost revenue.

Since the cruise industry shut down almost two years ago because of the pandemic, Asia, Europe and America have resumed sailing.

Travel agents and suppliers are being asked to converge on their MPs’ officers tomorrow and share their personal stories of hardship. The cruise sector is asking the government to allow cruise companies to re-enter the local market in a carefully managed and responsible manner.

Organisers of the day of action say that since cruising has resumed, six million travellers have safely cruised around the world.

Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) says that cruise lines are committed to new health protocols to ensure that all cruise passengers are safe and that the risk of disease is minimised.

The new health protocols are based on science, and with all passengers vaccinated and tested before boarding, a cruise is one of the safest forms of holiday.

CLIA cites Singapore as an example of how cruising can work despite COVID:

Singapore launched CruiseSafe, an initiative that has enabled the safe resumption of cruising to the island nation. The government has introduced several protocols and provided a model for other countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong to safely resume cruising.

The protocols include:

  • Local itineraries for locals only with no international ports
  • Reduced capacity sailings with a combination of vaccination testing of guests and crew before boarding
  • Social distancing, masks and other infection control measures at every stage of the journey
  • Extensive health protocols including testing, screening, sanitisation and emergency response plans
  • Enhanced medical facilities.
  • Upgraded ventilation systems.

CLIA has a “meet your MP” toolkit that can be used at any time here:

Campaign convenors, Belle Goldie, owner of the itravel Penrith agency in western Sydney and Dan Russell, general manager of Brisbane-based Clean Cruising, said the travel sector was now well beyond crisis point.

“After two hard years of devastation; travel agents, tour operators and travel-related businesses can no longer remain silent. They need to inform parliamentarians of the cold hard facts of the dire straits they now find themselves in,” Dan Russell said.

“Many travel businesses have already collapsed and so many more are at risk of going under with even more job losses. We face the loss of an entire generation of skilled travel professionals, which is why adoption of AFTA’s skills retention and recovery package is so vital.”

“Job Keeper and sector support has just kept the industry afloat, but we are concerned that further support won’t be forthcoming. We’ve lost all our young employees and those who are left are the business owners and experienced staff with decades in their roles. Their legacy skills will be even more vital in helping Australians safely navigate domestic and international travel again. Considering the travelling public are still sitting on over $8B in travel credits, this cannot be put at further risk.”

Belle Goldie said the personal toll on people in the travel and tourism sector including their financial and mental health was horrendous and becoming worse. She was only months away from having to abandon her 22-year commitment of fulfilling the dreams of travel-addicted Australians.

“I would rather go down fighting and speaking up than see my business, in which I’ve invested my family’s life savings, die slowly and silently on its knees,” Belle Goldie said. “When I started in travel, I never imagined that one day I would be among middle income earners having to accept charity or having to worry about feeding my children. But my story isn’t special. I know of at least 15 to 20 other agency owners in a similar predicament.”

“We fear that the travel bans will be extended and pushed out until after the Federal Election, which would have a completely devastating impact on every business that is part of the travel eco-system and associated industries that many of us rely on to survive.”