Cruise ships must return to South Africa, but some fear the COVID risk is too great

After a two-year hiatus, cruise ships over 91,000 tonnes will sail South Australia again from September.

The resumption of operations in the industry, which is worth $143 million to the South Australian economy, is an exciting prospect for business owners keen to see the return of thousands of tourists, but some locals are worried.

The Coral Princess – aboard which nearly 130 passengers and crew have tested positive for COVID off the coast of New South Wales – is the first of the large fleet of cruise ships expected at the start of the season.

Australian Cruise Association chief executive Jill Abel assured South Australians they would be safe when the industry resumes.

Ms Abel, who was in Port Lincoln for a convention with the SA Tourism Commission, said operators around the country had adopted East Coast cruise protocols to keep people safe.

“Over the past 18 months, a tremendous amount of work has been done with state and federal government agencies in terms of the health protocols that have been agreed upon,” she said.

“We have just arrived in Port Lincoln, there is no test, there is no compulsory vaccination for us to enter Port Lincoln.

“So I think the cruise setting has one of the highest levels of settings to keep everyone safe and there’s no argument in having those settings in place as we continue to smash through. way through this next wave of the virus.”

Jill Abel has held workshops in South Africa to help businesses prepare for the return of ships.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

“I can not wait to be there”

Ms Abel has held workshops in Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island and Adelaide to prepare businesses for the return of cruising to South Africa.

More than 50 companies traveled to Port Lincoln to learn how to maximize economic benefits.

Grand Tasman Hotel deputy manager Mark Santos said he learned about industry protocols, restrictions and product innovations.

“It’s exciting in a way that the cruise ships are back, it will bring a lot of opportunities for us in the region, as well as on my site,” he said.

“I can not wait to be there.

“I will be able to sit down with the bosses and strategize on how we respond to the market.

A man with short dark hair stands under a canopy.
Mark Santos is among those happy to see the resumption of cruising.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

Mr Santos said it appeared small businesses were worried about how they could attract more tourists to their stores.

“The main question raised was how best to market their business, especially small businesses in Port Lincoln…how could they match or promote their services or products to cruise passengers.”

Lee Clayton, who works at the RSL Museum, says he “can’t wait.”

“We get a lot of visitors at that time and we get a lot of money,” he said.

People sit and listen at a business seminar.
Representatives from over 50 companies attended the workshop in Port Lincoln.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

Too early for some

But resident Orial said she didn’t want to see the cruise ships return so soon.

“I don’t think they should be again because of COVID-19 – the outbreak on the Coral Princess is exactly why they shouldn’t come here,” she said.

“We’ve had enough [COVID]I think.”

In a statement, SA Health said it would work with cruise operators to ensure any response to an outbreak minimizes the impact on communities and health services.

“Operators will perform onboard COVID testing and manage onboard cases and contacts,” the department said.

“Passengers who test positive for COVID on board will self-isolate on the ship and be cared for by cruise medical staff.