From left: Ben Angell, Rumi Khato, Stuart Ayres, Giorgio Voussolinos, Kristy McBain, Natalie Godward, Philip Holliday

Anger as Canada reopens but Australia becomes only nation doing nothing to return cruising

Australia’s cruise industry yesterday reacted angrily to news that Canada is reopening to sailings – leaving Australia as the only leading cruise nation where the government is doing nothing about a resumption.

To rub salt in the wound, an astonishing 43,000 cruisers have sent notes to their MPs – only to receive a stock letter from Tourism Minister Dan Tehan saying the government was talking to the industry.

A statement from Cruise Lines International Association Australasia this morning maintains: “Australia has been left isolated as the only major cruise nation in the world not making progress towards revival after the Canadian Government last night announced it had brought forward the end of its cruise suspension to November 1, 2021.

“Canada’s plans to revive cruise tourism place it alongside other destinations including the US, UK, Europe and parts of Asia where cruising has already resumed under stringent new health protocols and testing regimes.”

CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said Canada’s announcement highlighted the lack of progress in Australia and called for a similar detailed plan for cruising’s revival domestically.

“Like Australia, Canada has taken a very conservative and risk-averse approach to cruising, but they’ve worked hard with industry to develop a detailed pathway towards resumption and economic recovery,” Mr Katz said. “By contrast, the Australian Government has made no progress towards establishing a framework for future cruise operations, despite the availability of comprehensive new health protocols at the international level.”

He added the suspension of cruising had already cost Australia more than $6 billion since early 2020 and had put more than 18,000 jobs at risk, including travel agents, tour operators, farmers and food suppliers, transport workers, entertainers, and technical support providers.

A group of suppliers who visited Parliament to try and raise support also issued a statement saying:  “Canada is a comparable maritime nation to Australia and its decision to allow cruising from November 1 subject to its public health orders is a glimmer of hope that businesses and jobs that depend on cruising here can be saved…we are at the frontline of the devastation caused in Australia’s travel and tourism sector and we are looking for a signal from our political leaders that they want to help us save businesses and jobs, many of which have already been lost.”

A group of MPs, including Kristy McBain, the member for Eden-Monaro, have this week come out in support of working with the cruise industry, which is seeking a framework from federal government so they can set up talks with individual states on how to safely restart sailings.

The campaign has now been joined by Queensland MP and member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch.

Both the economies of Queensland and Eden have been hit hard by the cruise ban. CLIA and the Carnival lines held a recent meeting in Parliament House lobbying for the return of domestic cruising.

Ms McBain told Cruise Passenger: “Eden businesses have been hard hit by the bushfires and then COVID-19. With a lot of local businesses relying on the cruise industry, we need to find a way to bring cruises back to kick-start the local economy and provide relief to businesses that have been resilient for far too long.”

Before the pandemic and with the completion of Eden Wharf extension, Eden was expecting its biggest cruise season with 30,000 passengers on board 22 different cruise ships visiting the region in 2019.

But Ms McBain added: “While I can’t wait for the day that a cruise ship returns to Eden Port, it’s important that our main focus is on fixing the vaccine rollout to ensure our community is safe and protected. The health and safety of our community is the highest priority and before any cruise ships come to Eden, we need to make sure procedures and protocols are air tight.”

Kristy McBain, MP Eden-Monaro on Eden Wharf

Mr Entsch said: “It doesn’t make sense to continue to lock out cruising – we’re talking about the domestic industry here. It will take several months to return to service so lets start talking about it now, lets go through the protocols.”

Following the meeting, the MPs have written to the Prime Minister, the Tourism Minister and the Health Minister to create a framework for a return to domestic cruising in Australia.

Since the pandemic hit in March last year, our international borders have shut and the government has banned large foreign-flagged cruise lines from sailing in local waters until September 17.

The seaside town of Eden on the Sapphire Coast is a popular port of call for many cruise lines including P&O, Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Celebrity and Azamara. Eden has a deep natural harbour, the third deepest in the Southern Hemisphere.

P&O Australia and Cruise Eden have released a video featuring the town’s proud history with cruise.

CLIA has been spearheading the political pressure on Canberra for a safe return to cruising in local waters.

“We have seen a welcome change in the political conversation in Australia recently and we’re now hearing from MPs who speak up in support of cruising. We have taken this further in recent days by enlisting travel agents, cruise industry suppliers and others who rely on cruising, encouraging them to meet face-to-face with their local MPs to explain the personal impact they’ve suffered.

“The new health protocols that cruise lines have adopted globally are among the most stringent to be found anywhere in tourism and they are already working successfully overseas. Australia is now the only major cruise market in the world where governments have made little progress towards their adoption, so we’ll continue to lobby hard for a responsible pathway forward for cruising,” Mr Katz told Cruise Passenger.

Captain Sponge, an oyster producer in Eden that has welcomed cruising
Captain Sponge, oyster producer in Eden

Eden is perfect for spotting whales, penguins, seals from its shores and at sea. It is also a great attraction for nature lovers to explore the local region. Eden and the Sapphire Coast have undergone a transformation with grower’s markets, food festivals and nature-based adventures. It’s burgeoning artisan food is gaining popularity.

Close is Bega, famous for its cheese, Pambula for its oysters and deep-sea fishing town, Bermagui for its yellowfin tuna and marlin.