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Industry delight as PONANT gets green light for expeditions

December 24, 2020 Headline News No Comments

New Zealand serves as a beacon of hope for Australia’s travel industry, showing how life may be when Covid-19 has been vanquished – so it’s no surprise that a new and encouraging cruise development concerning PONANT also concerns New Zealand.

Following months of engagement with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, luxury expedition leader PONANT has received conditional approval for the line’s small luxury expedition vessel, Le Lapérouse, to recommence operations exclusively in New Zealand waters, for New Zealanders from February 2021.

The news was warmly welcomed by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia. It’s just a week since Covid-free New Zealand roared back from a coronavirus-induced recession with record economic growth of 14% in the July-September quarter. (Australia’s economy grew 3.3% in the same quarter.)

PONANT and sister company Paul Gauguin Cruises, collectively have operated over 60 expeditions and cruises over the past 6 months with 8 of their 11 small ships operational in France, Iceland, the Arctic, Russia, Corsica, Sardinia and French Polynesia. No other tourism company has had its health and sanitary protocols so robustly tested by multiple jurisdictions.

Sarina Bratton AM, Chairman Asia Pacific for PONANT, broke the news saying: “Our excitement is twofold. Firstly, to have the opportunity and privilege to offer ‘Bubble Expeditions’ for Kiwis, enabling exploration of some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of that country, so rich in natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife. And secondly, to support our partners and deliver economic benefit to New Zealand.

“Kiwi travel agents, tour operators, ground operators, airlines, port authorities, food and beverage suppliers, technical suppliers, fuel suppliers, service and waste suppliers all benefit from our small ship operation”, Bratton added.

“Whilst presently in Australia we cannot travel internationally, I am so pleased that PONANT is once again able to offer Kiwis local expeditions to visit remote and often difficult to get to parts of New Zealand. PONANT’s relaxed, refined and French-inspired style complements this extraordinary experience.

“This is an important step forward and it takes us closer to the time when borders re-open and cruising resumes in Australia – and to when we will be able to confirm the return of our luxury expedition small ships,” Bratton concluded.

CLIA Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz, said the domestic operations PONANT planned in New Zealand were an example of the carefully controlled regional approach CLIA has proposed for the resumption of restricted cruise operations in New Zealand and Australia.

“Cruise lines have developed extensive new health protocols in response to Covid-19 that go well beyond the measures of almost any other area of the travel industry,” Katz said.

“By creating bubble itineraries for New Zealanders only, operating exclusively within New Zealand, we see an opportunity to help revive the tourism economy while at the same time offering protective protocols against outside infection.”

CLIA has outlined extensive new health protocols to governments in New Zealand and Australia as part of a global response to COVID-19 by the cruise industry.

“Such measures have already allowed limited cruise operations to resume in other regions including Europe and Asia,” Katz said.

“CLIA will continue to work closely with governments in Australasia to establish a responsible pathway towards resumption that will uphold safety while also helping to revive an industry worth more than $5 billion a year our region’s economy.”

The news is a boost for the clean, green, Covid-free image of New Zealand. Earlier this month, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the creation early next year of a two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

In another powerful gesture of confidence, Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), the official, membership-based association of New Zealand’s conference and business events industry, has gone ahead and confirmed MEETINGS 2021 for 2 and 3 June in Auckland, with its hosted buyer program launching early in 2021 – now just a few weeks away.

 Edited by Peter Needham

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