News that cruise ships will soon be able to return to Australia has been announced, with the ban that has been in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 due to be lifted on April 17.
The resumption of the industry is expected to provide a welcome boost for thousands of workers whose livelihoods depend on cruising, while bringing clarity for many thousands of Australians who choose to holiday at sea.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the decision was based on medical advice and was consistent with the reopening of Australia's international border.
Port Authority of New South Wales CEO Philip Holliday welcomed the return of cruise to NSW.
"Particularly our multi-award winning Eden Welcome Centre and Cruise Terminal. The terminal will drive economic growth in the region, supporting job creation in tourism and hospitality industries," Mr Holliday said
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the industry would continue working with state and territory governments to finalise the extensive health protocols needed before cruising could resume.
"Today's announcement is a huge breakthrough for more than 18,000 Australians who depend on cruise tourism," CLIA managing director Australasia Joel Katz said.
"The suspension of cruising over the past two years has cost the Australian economy more than $10billion and we now have an opportunity to work on a revival."
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Clair Mudaliar, manager of Eden Visitor Information Centre, said the pause had provided a chance for EVIC to get settled in the new purpose-built Welcome Centre building.
"We are definitely ready now for when cruise ships do return and look forward to welcoming them back. We are in a much better position to do so now with our wonderful new facilities," Ms Mudaliar said.
Mr Katz said more than eight million people had already sailed in more than 80 other countries where cruising had resumed, with stringent new health measures in place.
"Cruising has changed enormously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are among the most extensive to be found anywhere in world tourism," Mr Katz said.
Eden Chamber of Commerce president Eric Wolske said while it wasn't yet clear how many cruise ships would be scheduled to arrive in Eden, local businesses were looking forward to having them back.
"From what we understand it will take a while for cruises to gear up to return, but we anticipate it could happen by September or October," Mr Wolske said.
"It'll be great timing with the Whale Festival and warmer weather, for a lot of businesses it will be the cream on top."
Mr Katz confirmed there was still much preparation to complete before cruise ships could return.
"Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that state governments and health authorities continue to work closely with the industry in the coming weeks to finalise detailed operational plans for resumption," Mr Katz said.
More than 94 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 12million Australians have had a booster vaccination.
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