When cruising in Far North Queensland was on a growth trajectory now disrupted by the covid pandemic, ‘Hummers and Harleys’ tour operators Tina and Rory Murphy in Cairns bought a second luxury stretch Hummer limousine specifically to cater for the cruise market.
Barely three months after the second limousine went into service, the pandemic hit with cruising suspended, international borders closed and interstate borders constantly changing leaving the popular tour business in a difficult position.
According to Tina and Rory, the outcome has been “dreadful” resulting in a 70 per cent cut in business for the energetic tourist attraction.
“We would never have bought the second stretch Hummer had we known what was going to happen,” Tina said. “We bought it solely to look after the cruise ships coming to Cairns.
“The cruise ships calling at Cairns and Port Douglas were good for business in other ways as well. They added a real buzz with the passengers in town spending money and having a good time.
“We really enjoyed taking cruise passengers touring in our Hummers. It gave everything a great vibe.”
Like many tourism operators, Tina and Rory cannot understand why the carefully managed resumption of domestic cruising is forbidden and that there is still no plan for its restart.
“If it is carefully done it is a no brainer,” Tina said “We have discussed it and we can’t see the difference between having nightclubs open or going to the football and being on a cruise ship.
“It just doesn’t make sense when a cruise ship could travel safely from Brisbane to destinations such as Cairns and Airlie Beach.”
President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, Sture Myrmell, said Tina and Rory Murphy’s account is typical of many tour operators whose businesses have been hit by the suspension of cruising.
Mr Myrmell said their experience highlighted cruising’s multiplier effect generating $5 billion annually in economic activity in Australia prior to the pandemic including $1 billion in Queensland.
“Cruising is also vital to regional economies and this emphasises why it is so important for federal and state governments to engage and agree on a pathway for the resumption of cruising,” Mr Myrmell said.
“As things stand, it will be months before any cruise ship can return to Australia but it is urgent to begin the restart conversation now so that businesses that depend on cruising can plan for the future.”