Sailaway Port Douglas has returned to the seas this week resuming tour operations to the reef, Low Isles, and sunset sailing.
After having to suspend tours in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, Owner Steve Edmondson said it’s a great feeling seeing customers walk aboard the catamaran again for the first time in 80 days.
“It’s fantastic, we had two separate private family charters to start with last week and from Saturday we began our scheduled trips,” he said.
“It was a good start in difficult times. We were delighted to see the immediate support from two family charters who were overseas tourists who had been stuck here due to COVID, and as soon as it was allowed, they wanted to get out on the water.”
Mr Edmondson said Sailaway was eager to welcome back customers and for locals looking to get out for a spin now is the time to do so with big specials and locals discounts on offer.
“Those who book a full day reef trip will also receive a complimentary Sunset Sail. That’s only $283 for a full day reef trip and a Sunset Sail. Valid to travel until 30 November 2020.”
The downtime hasn’t been a holiday for Sailaway however, with Mr Edmondson saying they have been active on the boat, training and preparing for the return.
“We have had complete training days to make sure we are all ready. It’s not just a re-start but a rethink. We are reinventing how we do everything with the right practices, total safety and adapting to suit current circumstances.”
They have adopted a number of COVID Safe measures including temperature checks before boarding.
“We also kindly ask that customers have the COVID Safe app loaded and enabled on their phones. We think that is a simple and positive way of contact tracing should the need arise. The good thing is we don’t have to change our space and tour numbers as we already comply because we offer a spacious luxury catamaran with small groups,” he said.
Sailaway has also been busy with its environmental initiatives including the Eco Shamba Tree Farm.
“We’re planting another 650 hardwood cabinet timber trees (Spotted Gum and African Mahogany) on Eco Shamba Tree Farm in June, supported by every passenger who travels on Sailaway, contributing to our Carbon Offset Program,” Mr Edmondson said.
They have also been working on the Coral Nurture Program, installing coral frames and out planting fragment corals at their sites to enhance the coral cover.
“This is a new approach for the Great Barrier Reef that is initiated by a partnership between tourism and science,” Mr Edmondson said. “A core objective of this program is to introduce coral planting into localised stewardship and adaptation. This is to help ensure sustainable reef ecotourism and promote education on the major threats to coral reefs and possible future solutions. This involves nursery frames with opportunity coral fragments, then out-planting corals with an innovative ‘coral clip’ in order to boost live resilient coral growth at reefs that have experienced a fall in cover and also helps ensure reef sites with existing high coral cover that are economically valuable stay healthy.”
Over recent month’s Mr Edmondson has been heavily advocating for the state border to reopen and said he is pleased to see 10 July put forward as a likely open date.
“There hasn’t been much uptake in bookings for July and August because of a lack of confidence in the timeline due to the government’s mixed messages.”
Mr Edmondson hopes now some consumer confidence may return allowing visitors to start booking flights, tours, and accommodation.