The Australian Government has announced it will be extending its international travel ban for an additional three months. The ban was set to expire just weeks from now.
The extension spells bad news for any international cruise lines operating within Australia. However, national cruise lines like P&O Australia might offer cruises for Australian nationals within Australian waters, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australia.
The human biosecurity emergency period, which has been in place since March 17, 2020, will be extended by an additional three months until June 17, 2021. The Governor-General announced this. By doing so, the Australian Government will be able to take any measures necessary to prevent and control COVID-19.
The measures almost completely ban all international travel to Australia. According to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, the pandemic continues to pose an excessive risk to the Australian public. The measures are:
- pre-departure testing and mask-wearing for international flights;
- restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory;
- restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians; and
- restrictions on the trade of retail outlets at international airports.
Greg Hunt, the Minister of Health, explained that overseas risks were one of the main reasons for the emergency extension.
“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has advised the Australian Government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants.”
The ban was due to expire on March 17, 2021. The three-month extension means Australians and international travelers have now not been able to travel into or from Australia.
It also means that the cruise industry’s losses now approach $5 billion. Government officials have expressed interest in developing a framework for cruise ships to resume in Australia in the future.
What It Means For The Cruise Industry
As it currently stands, any internationally registered cruise ships will not enter Australian waters until the ban finishes in June. According to Joel Katz, the CLIA Managing Director, the industry is disappointed with the decisions made, although it does understand them:
“We have been working closely with the Federal Government for more than six months now on a high-level framework for the re-start of domestic operations. We are naturally disappointed that the Government has extended the ban without finalising a pathway for the return of cruising given the work that has taken place over many months, but we remain committed to working with agencies at a federal and state level.”
Will Cruise Ships Sail?
Whether cruise ships will be sailing in Australia depends on the Government. CLIA says it is working with the Government on a resumption of cruising in Australia:
“We have been working closely with the Federal Government for more than six months now on a high-level framework for the re-start of domestic operations. We believe there is a pathway for the phased and tightly controlled return of domestic cruising for the benefit of those regional communities and industries that rely on a healthy cruise sector.”
The Cruise Lines International Association report estimates that the Australian economy suffered a loss of $5 billion since March when cruise lines stopped operating.
The cruise industry sustains over 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs across a range of industries. There are thousands of travel agents, farmers, entertainers, tour operators, port facilities, and maritime and logistic services affected by the ban.
While we will see domestic cruise travel in Israel, Singapore, Spain, Italy, and potentially the UK, it is too soon to say whether Australia will be included in this list. However, as Richard D. Fain said this week, the last few weeks of the pandemic will turn out to be the hardest, which could very well mean that cruises are just around the corner for all of us.
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