Australia’s two-year cruise ship embargo comes to an end on Sunday, marking another step toward restoring tourism after the pandemic’s devastation.
The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that the ban on foreign cruise ships, which was enforced in March 2020 after a Covid outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess spilled into Sydney once the ship docked, cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion ($7.4 billion).
Operators are “preparing for a carefully regulated restart of activities in a sector that formerly supported over 18,000 Australian employment,” according to a statement released by the group ahead of the ban’s expiration.
After the federal ban expires, the states will decide when vessels can enter. Vaccination regulations for workers and passengers over the age of 12 are in place, as are mask and Covid-testing protocols.
The Pacific Explorer, operated by P&O Cruises Australia, will be one of the first ships to dock in Sydney Harbour on Monday, ahead of its resumption to service at the end of May.
According to official estimates, 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Sydney in 2017 and 2018. Following high-profile outbreaks that caused a number of ports to close their doors, the pandemic impacted cruise ships particularly severely.
Tourism industry groups claim that there is enormous unmet demand for cruises, but it’s uncertain whether the disease’s dread will have a long-term impact on the business. Global travel stocks have failed to make much ground lost owing to the pandemic, and have lagged behind global equities since the start of 2020.
This year, Australia loosened border restrictions, relying on strong vaccination rates as part of a coronavirus-learning plan.