‘Back with bells on’ but big changes are coming to cruising
Cruise ships could return to Queensland within months in a multimillion-dollar windfall for the state as the industry eyes life after COVID-19.
The cruise industry was brought to a shuddering halt during the coronavirus pandemic, but companies are now taking bookings for this year, with a huge surge in demand for Queensland itineraries on Carnival, the world's biggest cruise line.
Carnival, which hopes to resume cruises to Brisbane and beyond by late April, has experienced a 400 per cent increase in demand in Queensland voyages since announcing a delay on international itineraries in a move set to inject an estimated $16.7 million into the Queensland economy.
Carnival hopes to run cruises to Queensland waters out of Sydney from late April, while the Carnival Spirit is expected to be based in Queensland from late June.
Cairns ($6.8 million), Port Douglas ($3.7 million), Airlie Beach ($5.4 million), and Moreton Island ($800,000) are the destinations that will be included within new itineraries.
While the developing situation in Sydney could prompt changes, Carnival bosses are hopeful cruise ships will soon be visiting Queensland destinations including Moreton Island, Airlie Beach and ports further north.
Carnival Australia vice-president Jennifer Vandekreeke said the company was buoyed by the demand for Queensland cruises.
"We are going to be back with bells on," she said.
"We're still in the hands of the state and federal governments, but there is already a lot of excitement about getting cruising back.
"We're getting a great response on bookings and we know there's lots of passengers who can't wait for us to come back so that's really exciting."
Cruising has come under the microscope during the pandemic, with the Ruby Princess debacle sparking a special commission of inquiry.
However Ms Vandekreeke said strict safety recommendations introduced by the Cruise Line International Association, including mandatory COVID-19 testing for passengers and crew before they embarked, should give passengers increased confidence.
Research conducted by Carnival revealed Queensland residents were in desperate need for a holiday with nearly half of respondents taking no annual leave for the entire year.
A cruise to Moreton Island would be one way to cure the holiday blues, with Tangalooma poised for the return of cruise passengers.
Tangalooma Island Resort director David James said the return of cruise ships would deliver a windfall to the region and help keep jobs.
"As more cruise itineraries are scheduled and promoted to our region, it also solidifies Brisbane and the islands of Moreton Bay as an aspirational destination for interstate travellers that may never have visited this incredible part of the world," he said.
"We look forward to welcoming cruise tourists back to Tangalooma with open arms once it is deemed safe for them to return to Queensland waters."
The news comes as new research from Tourism Australia reveals a rise in road trips and visits to iconic tourist attractions is on the cards for 2021.
Unveiling the top trends for the year, the forecast expects more Aussies to embrace road trips this year and a move towards exploring more remote destinations away from the crowds of COVID hot spots.
There is expected to be an increase in demand for Indigenous tourism experiences, as well as for holidays that help to recharge the batteries after the stress of the pandemic, such as multi-day nature hikes or yoga retreats.
The forecast is also good news for the Great Barrier Reef, where tourism operators have been among the hardest hit due to the loss of international visitors.
Holidays which take in 'bucket list' attractions such as the Reef, Uluru or climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Other predicted trends include a rise in voluntourism-type experiences (such as helping the recovery of bushfire ravaged regions and participating in wildlife recovery surveys) and a renewed demand for foodie and gastronomical travel.
Originally published as 'Back with bells on'... but big changes to cruising