(6:35 a.m. AEDT) -- The Australian cruise ship industry is again advocating for the right to resume domestic cruise operations, with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) asking the Australian government to end its ban on cruise in favor of a cautious restart.
CLIA's proposal calls for the creation of region-specific travel bubbles as a tool to enable cruises from a series of local markets.
"This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, one hundred percent testing of guests and crew and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place," said Joel Katz, managing director of CLIA Australasia.
It's not the first time that tourism advocates Down Under have called for regional bubbles to be created as a way to restart the languishing tourism economy. In the spring, a proposed Australia-New Zealand travel bubble that would have potentially restarted air and cruise travel between the two nations fell apart after cases of COVID-19 rose once again.
Earlier this year, Australia's Tourism Restart Taskforce outlined a proposed recovery plan for domestic and international tourism that was to restart July 1, while travel to "safe" countries could resume as early as September 10. None of that has come to pass as the global health pandemic has worsened throughout the winter months in many areas of the world.
Buoyed by the decreasing numbers of cases throughout Australia, CLIA has formally asked the Australian federal government for permission to restart the country's A$5-billion per year cruise industry, using a cautious, layered approach.
Two domestic Australian cruise operators have already resumed sailings. Coral Expeditions successfully restarted limited operations in October and plans to sail new itineraries in January, while Captain Cook Cruises' Murray Princess has also restarted its cruises along the Murray River for local residents.
To keep the bubble local, CLIA has proposed several health and safety initiatives for the Australia region, including mandatory quarantines for ships and crew on return to Australia, and for crew undergoing changeover; 100 percent pre-boarding health screening and mandatory COVID-19 testing for passengers and crew; denial of boarding to anyone with exposure to COVID-19 or who has recently arrived in Australia; and physical distancing, hygiene protocols, and staggered embarkation and disembarkation processes.
CLIA also proposes guidelines for shoreside operations in terminals to match those onboard, along with risk assessments for ports of call.
No word yet on how the Australian Government intends to respond.