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GREAT TRAVEL ESCAPE POSTPONED Featured
15 June 2020 Posted by 

GREAT TRAVEL ESCAPE POSTPONED

What next for the cruise industry?
Travel Editor DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
CENTRAL Coast travellers will not be able to head overseas for another three months after the government extended its travel bans to September 17.

The restrictions on international trips were set to expire on June 17, however, the Health Department has confirmed it had been stretched.

The Federal Government had no choice but to ban travelling overseas on March 18 after the world descended into a Covid-19 pandemic rapidly with millions of deaths overseas.

The pandemic was particularly severe in the most popular overseas destinations for Australians including Italy, Spain, Britain, the USA and Asia.

It also struck cruising which normally draws 1.8 million Aussie passengers overseas every year and the unfortunate Ruby Princess became the centre of a media storm after a NSW Health Department stuff up.

Adding to the angst of NSW travelers looking to get away on and alternative holiday, the Queensland, Western Australian and South Australian governments all kept their borders shut.

This has meant that the expected boom for Australian tourism in what has been described as “the Great Escape” after lockdown has simply not taken place so far.

It now seems likely that New Zealand will reap the benefits  of “the Great Escape” with a travel bubble being planned for Australian visitors.

Travel bubbles could be given the go-ahead if deemed safe including the expected proposal with New Zealand.

Health minister Greg Hunt said plans were also being considered to potentially allow international business travelers and foreign students to return to Australia safely.

“There are two pathways on international travel reopening - one is to use our quarantine system with international students and appropriately with people who are delivering national benefit whether it is in business or other areas," he told the ABC.

There are reports that the quarantine restrictions could be halved for business travelers from countries with low levels of coronavirus.

Mr Hunt said the government continued to work on plans for a travel bubble with Covid-free countries such as New Zealand where no quarantine would be required.

“Secondly, where we can have a safe relationship with another country such as New Zealand, having a non-quarantine approach which will open up borders."

"There is more work to be done, but both of those pathways to bring back people safely and where there is a Covid Safe country such as New Zealand, the capacity to open up those borders once our domestic borders are opened up.”

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said a lot of contingency work was being done to resolve logistical issues with international travel.

Cruise Ships

He said while there was no firm date for a trans-Tasman travel bubble, he hoped that as state premiers relaxed borders - South Australia and Queensland will open their borders in July – it would give New Zealand confidence.

Meanwhile, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for cruise passengers with companies setting  and selling itineraries from October.

Cruise ships will return to Australian waters en masse in late 2020, but the traditional style of cruising we have enjoyed for so many years is now dead in the water.

A whole raft of changes will be put in place to protect passengers from a Covid-19 outbreak on board, but the test of whether the industry has done enough will come in the following weeks when passengers start returning home.

"There’s a requirement that we do a lot of work to regain confidence amongst our travelers," Joel Katz, Australasia managing director of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said.

"Our cruise lines are really doing a thorough analysis of the door to door process for our passengers, from the moment they make a booking to the moment they get home, to try understand how each element of that passenger journey is impacted by the current situation and how they can address the risks associated with those elements."

That early interest has been driven largely by a big sale on cruise tickets for upcoming seasons.

Discounts of anywhere between 30 to 70% on deals and generous terms on refunds have seen passengers re-engage with cruise companies such as P&O, Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

Most passionate 40+cruise fans in Australia say the pandemic has not destroyed their hopes of future holidays on the seas, but they want to see concrete changes in cruise health and medical protocols before they will sail again.

The very existence and success of cruise ships is based on social gatherings from bingo and the buffet to cocktail parties, live shows, workouts, sunbaking on a deckchair and even going for  a swim.

All those activities will have to change, but Joel Katz from CLIA is confident the sector can meet those demands.

"We’ve always been a resilient industry. We have a vast number of people who are avid cruisers and passionate cruisers and we have no doubt those passengers on the whole will be ready to resail with us when the time is right," he said

However cruising cannot control the fact that its strength is the senior market , especially at the luxury end of the spectrum and many seniors I have spoken to about this issue have placed their own ban on cruising until an effective vaccine is available.

The other problem facing seniors is travel insurance. Unless insurance companies cover Covid-19, most seniors will not take the risk of racking up a huge medical bill overseas.

The answer for cruise companies may be to put their own Covid-19 cover in their insurance policies on board, but this would need to be extended to the full journey including flights where necessary.

There a still a lot of questions to be answered in the coming months.

Dallas Sherringham is editor of Mature Traveler Magazine, the Australian Cruise Magazine and Facebook’s The Cruise Expert.



editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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