With the Canadian government recently announcing that cruising will resume on 1 November 2021, Australia is left as the last major cruise nation in the world without a published plan to restart cruise operations. Cruise, travel and associated services continue to miss the much needed cash that sailings bring, with no end on the horizon.
Travel ban ripples beyond cruise industry
In the 2019/20 season, cruising brought $4.7b to the Australian economy according to a report by the Cruise Line International Association.
Cruise ships navigating Australian waters are much needed by more than just cruise and travel services. As well as the cruise lines themselves, travel services such as travel agents, local accommodation and transfer providers rely on the cruise industry for their survival. However the cruise ban has implications beyond cruise and travel services such as local tourism, farming and logistics.
Extended bans and uncertainty
Australia’s cruise ban on foreign flagged ships holding over 100 passengers commenced in March 2020. It has been repeatedly extended in 3 month intervals. Although it is currently due to end in September 2021, it may well be extended yet again.
Whilst it is understandable that the Australian government wants to protect its citizens from a further Ruby Princess disaster, the prolonged blanket ban has left cruise operators, passengers and those who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihood in unchartered waters. Without a published plan on when cruising will resume in Australia, the future is uncertain for everyone.
Australia is a UN nation and member of the International Maritime Organisation. On 5 November 2020, the International Maritime Organisation and World Tourism Organisation called for governments to plan the gradual and safe resumption of cruise ship operations.
Many maritime nations have either resumed cruising in some capacity or have published strategic plans to resume cruising. For example, Singapore has been successfully allowing ‘cruises to nowhere’ since November 2020. In Europe and the United States, cruising has also resumed in some form.
Canada had issued a ban on cruise ships until February 2022. However this was recently brought forward to 1 November 2021. This will allow the cruise industry and local economy to benefit from the lucrative Christmas holiday season.
Australia however is yet to publish any such plan. Whilst the New Zealand travel bubble marked a welcome limited reopening of international borders, it only covers flights and not cruises. As such Australia has been left as the last major cruise nation in the world not to have a framework in place to restart cruising.
Call for a planned way forward
The Cruise Line International Association is calling for a controlled resumption of cruising, starting with local cruising for locals only.
Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers supports this call. As well as benefiting the local economies of Australian cruise destinations, particularly along the east coast such as Eden and far north Queensland, this will give Australian cruise passengers the chance to finally use their cruises credits which have been tied up during the pandemic.
Whilst Australia is going through its worst series of outbreaks since the pandemic started, this is no reason not to plan what the resumption of cruising will look like in Australia. In fact having some certainty about the future of cruise and travel services will help many get through these latest lockdowns.