A group of cruise suppliers, representative of hundreds of businesses and individuals across Australia who depend on cruising for their livelihoods, today travelled to Canberra seeking support from Federal Parliamentarians for a pathway to enable the resumption of domestic cruising in Australia.
At a special briefing at Parliament House, the suppliers met with MPs from federal electorates in a number of states that benefit from economic activity generated by cruising.
Representing fresh produce growers, travel agents, tour operators, marine engineering services and entertainers, the group told MPs that their businesses were among many in the travel and tourism sector hit hard by the impact of the pandemic and who were now looking for certainty to restore livelihoods and jobs.
Industry wide, in the past 15 months, at least $6 billion in cruise linked economic activity has been lost and more than 700 cruises that would have carried more than 1.8 million guests from Australian ports cancelled. This is money that would have been spent on port-related fees and charges, transport and logistics, food and beverage, shore tours, entertainers and travel agents.
A staggering 25 per cent of Australian-based travel agencies specialising in cruise holidays on Carnival Australia brands in 2019 have now closed. Thousands of travel consultants have left the industry. Six thousand consultants registered in one Carnival Australia brand’s training academy have left the industry.
President of Carnival Australia Sture Myrmell, who joined the suppliers at the briefing, said the Federal Government’s recent extension of its biosecurity determination to September 17 had been anticipated but the absence of an agreed pathway back for cruising, beginning with domestic itineraries, was extremely disappointing.
Mr Myrmell said it was just as disappointing for the many suppliers who benefit from the ‘multiplier effect’ of cruising and had been looking for some sign of encouragement that their businesses could be restored to growth.
“We need certainty as cruise operators to prepare for restart but a framework to achieve this is just as vital for our many suppliers who are reeling from the suspension of cruising,” Mr Myrmell said. “In its last year of full operation in Australia, cruising generated $5 billion in economic activity with much of it in regional areas. It is not something that can be lightly dismissed. Real businesses, real people and real jobs are being affected.”
Mr Myrmell said, to illustrate cruising’s positive economic impact, as Australia’s largest cruise organisation, the seven cruise lines for which Carnival Australia accounts, each year purchased food and beverage and wine valued at more than $100 million. Much of this was purchased by P&O Cruises Australia which has been cruising from Australia for nearly 90 years.
The suppliers who travelled to Canberra to meet federal MPs are:
- Steven Biviano, Group General Manager Select Fresh Providores. “The effect was huge and devastating. The smaller communities, the regional producers are the ones that have been affected the most. We lost up to fifty per cent of our business at the height of the season.
- Dan Russell, General Manager and Director Clean Cruising. “It’s impossible to do any business planning with the rolling three-month suspension. We need a plan, we need clarity.”
- Jay McKenzie, Owner and CEO Bob Wood Cruise Group (shore tour wholesaler). “It was basically the end of cruise as we knew it. Like a lot of people, it has been a devastating effect really and pretty nasty, I have to say.”
- Graeme Blackman, Managing Director Inter-Marine Pty Ltd. “Unfortunately, we had to let a number of our staff go and we are down to the bare minimum just trying to survive until the ships come back.”
- Graeme Gillies, Founding Director Grayboy Entertainment. “We are agents for a lot of cruise entertainers as well as being a production house. We were expecting a busy year developing production shows … instead, the situation is grim for entertainers.’
- James Bustar, Cruise Entertainer. “(Before the pandemic), the cruise lines just kept multiplying more and more and I was hardly ever home! Now, let’s get back to work soon.”
Mr Myrmell said there had been a strong reaction on cruising social media platforms to the latest three-month extension to the suspension of cruising in Australia.
“It is increasingly apparent that our loyal guests share our concern that there is still no pathway to the resumption of domestic cruising even as they see other international markets opening up,” Mr Myrmell said.
“Our guests know that the cruise industry has done the work in putting comprehensive protocols and policies in place to support a careful phased resumption of cruising.
“Like us, they are looking for a framework that will enable them to safely return to their preferred choice of holidaying at sea.”