Federal MP Warren Entsch is calling for the government to set a date for the resumption of cruising to help revive regional businesses.
Entsch, the coalition MP for Leichhardt, told ABC News the cruise industry has learned a lot about COVID-19 safety and believes measures can be put in place for a safe resumption.
“It’s all about density … passenger density, training the crew and the way food is served — a whole raft of things that can be done,” he said.
“We have a lot of Australian businesses that are 100 per cent reliant on it.
“There are protocols in place and they do it exceptionally well.”
According to The Australian, Entsch has 15 MPs and senators backing his call for a restart.
In a letter seen by The Australian, the Cairns-based MP said the government needs to give the cruise industry a date for the return of cruising or establish protocols for a return, like “100 per cent vaccinations”.
“The cruise industry accepts they have to put in place procedures like every other part of our community to minimise the risk,” he said in the letter.
“We know a lot more about the virus than we did in the days of the Ruby Princess.”
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)’s regional managing director, Joel Katz, said cruise lines have been “lobbying hard” for a pathway to resumption, and the association is urging travel agents, suppliers and stakeholders to meet personally with their local MP to help highlight the human cost of the suspension.
“The grass-roots involvement of travel agents, suppliers and other stakeholders will help support our efforts and highlight the devastating personal impact of the cruise suspension,” Katz said.
CLIA has created a new online toolkit that provides resources needed to seek face-to-face or virtual meetings with state and federal representatives as part of its ‘Ready, Set, Sail’ campaign.
Dan Russell, general manager of Clean Cruising, revealed that industry sources had “privately disclosed” that more than 700 cruise specialist travel agencies in Australia have closed their doors, and around one in four have walked away.
On top of this, Russell said that nearly 5,600 cruise specialist travel consultants — more than half of those working in the pre-pandemic industry — have left the industry.
“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,” he said.
Russell said cruising had been booming in Queensland prior to the pandemic, supporting 3,500 jobs with more than $500 million spent in Queensland ports and communities in 2019 alone.
“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,” he said.
“It will sadly continue to gather dust and more job losses will occur until the state considers the COVIDSafe plans that have been sitting in the drawer for months.”
P&O Cruises Australia is also encouraging Aussies to join the call, launching a new social media campaign where its followers and other supporters of cruising can set a ‘Fly the Flag for P&O’ frame for their Facebook profile.
The campaign was inspired by one of the cruise line’s hard-hit suppliers, Graeme Blackman, managing director of marine engineering specialist Inter-Marine, who routinely flies the P&O flag from a flagpole outside his Mortdale workshop in Sydney.
Featured image source: Facebook/WarrenEntschMP