A crucial part of the cruise restart: Lines and ports must agree on health protocols

Carnival Cruise Line ships in Cozumel, Mexico. As it works towards a restart, the cruise industry must work with port authorities and governments to agree on health protocols.
Carnival Cruise Line ships in Cozumel, Mexico. As it works towards a restart, the cruise industry must work with port authorities and governments to agree on health protocols.

As cruising looks to resume operations after the coronavirus-induced industry halt, it faces challenges unique to an industry in which the majority of its ships touch multiple nations on each itinerary.

CLIA global chair Adam Goldstein said in a conversation with Travel Weekly editors that the association is aware that it will be paramount for travel advisors to have clarity about when cruising can resume and what protocols will accompany that resumption.

Among the challenges the cruise industry faces is that each country will have its own set of rules and regulations to comply with. But Goldstein said this is not new for cruising, and he said CLIA is supporting its member cruise lines to put together protocols that should “meet the test of any international national health authority.”

“There’s never been a perfect harmony across the 1,000 destinations that cruise ships visit, and somehow we managed to work out a fairly seamless vacation environment,” Goldstein said. “This presents new challenges across every dimension. And while our aspiration is for the most harmonized global approach possible, it’s a complex world. Regions are quite different from one another. It’s possible we won’t end up with a perfectly harmonized Covid-19 world to deal with. But I don’t think there’s anybody more experienced, clever or determined to succeed in a global environment than the cruise industry, and that’s been well demonstrated over a half-century.”

CLIA CEO Kelly Craighead said that regulatory agencies worldwide have approached the cruise industry in different ways.

“Some of the challenges in the U.S. are different from the challenges we’re having [elsewhere],” she said. “In Europe in particular, the industry is welcome to participate in dialogue about thoughtful resumption protocols. In the U.S., with the CDC, we’re having some challenges with having that kind of engagement and dialogue with them.”

Craighead added that in Europe, “there is an interest from governments to reopen tourism, and cruising is considered an important part of that.”

Given those complexities, Goldstein said it is premature to say where CLIA members might first relaunch.

“We can’t comment for the authorities,” he said. “They’re dealing with a billion different things. Travel and tourism is one piece, and cruise is a very small piece of that piece.”

He also said that it is likely there will be the sequencing of cruise resumption in different regions.

“I just can’t say which will go first, second, third,” he said. “We also expect [cruises may be shorter] toward the beginning, they could go to fewer ports at the beginning. It will take time, and there will be an evolution back towards what we were doing pre-pause.”

Above all, right now, Goldstein said it is important for the industry to be ready to engage with governments around the world at any time.

“What concerns us is: would we miss opportunities to engage at the time when governments are prepared to engage with us?” he said. “So the message to the member lines is, ‘let’s be as ready as we can be as an association.’ It’s an everyday challenge we work through.”

Cruise chief targets ‘pirate’ shore excursion operators

Photo courtesy of Dave Jones

by Hollie-Rae Merrick

Cruise lines need to educate agents about the value of selling shore excursions to stop “pirate third-party operators stealing guests”, the boss of the world’s largest cruise company has claimed.

Carnival Corporation chief executive Arnold Donald told the Clia conference in Southampton that there was scope to improve the promotion and sales of both onboard and destination-based experiences.

“There has only been one year since 2006 that onboard revenues didn’t go up,” he said. “Despite any changes in the industry, onboard revenues have continued to grow.

“Those changes include shore excursions where you have a lot of, what we call pirates, but they call themselves independent operators, stealing our guests on shore excursions that they ought to be booking with us.

“It’s a missed opportunity for us.”

Donald said that working with agents would help customers differentiate between shore tours provided through cruise lines and others.

“Some of those tours aren’t the same,” he added. “They may go to the same places but they aren’t the same.

“They may not have the same insurance, they may not have the same quality guides and consumers buying online doesn’t know all that. We have to do a better job at that.

“There are so many opportunities on this.”

Donald went on to praise the performance of the UK market which he described as “robust” and performing well.

He claimed the UK was on a “positive trajectory from a Carnival standpoint”, but admitted that the industry needed to “manage smarter and not panic on price”.

He said it was important to “hang in there a little bit longer on price” to help drive up the average cruise fare.

Clia figures confirm global growth but UK decline

A previously-announced slump in UK cruise passengers last year has been re-confirmed in newly-published figures for the global industry.

The statistics for 2014 released by Clia show global demand for cruise holidays growing by 3.4% year-on-year to reach 22.04 million ocean cruise passengers.

But UK numbers dropped to 1.6 million from 1.7 million a year earlier, largely due to reduced cruise ship capacity away from UK ports and other popular destinations such as the Mediterranean

The cruise industry trade association was quick to point out that the UK will have returned to growth in a “landmark year” in 2015 thanks to the introduction of ships including P&O Cruises’ Britannia, Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Magellan.

“Longer-term trends demonstrate that the UK and Ireland market remains resilient; the annual average increase in passenger numbers since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 has been 3.3% and, over the past quarter century, there has been ten-fold growth,” a Clia spokesman said.

“The UK and Ireland continues to have one of Europe’s highest rates of market penetration for cruise holidays.”

The UK and Germany accounted for 15% of global cruise passengers or 3.38 million in 2014.

The Clia global figures issued from the US reveal total contributions from the cruise industry rose from $117 billion in 2013 to $119.9 billion last year.

This includes supporting 939,232 full-time equivalent employees earning $39.3 billion in income. Direct expenditures generated by cruise lines, passengers and crew totalled $55.8 billion.

North America remains the largest source market, accounting for 55% or 12.2 million cruise passengers in 2014, followed by Europe which claimed 29% or 6.4 million passengers.

Other regions of the world, including Australia, China, Singapore, Japan and South America, accounted for the remaining 16% or 3.5 million passengers.

Cruise tourism in Asia is growing at double-digit rates, both in capacity and as a passenger source market, according to the study.

The number of ships deployed in the region between 2013 and 2015 grew at a 10% compound annual growth rate, and the volume of cruises and voyages within and through Asia increased 11%. Passenger capacity in Asia increased 20%, with Chinas being the main driver of growth.

Clia acting chief executive, Cindy D’Aoust, said: “The cruise industry is truly a global and dynamic one.

“We’ve enjoyed progressive growth over the last 30 years, driven initially by demand from North America, which expanded to Europe, Australia and now Asia. As a result, the cruise industry impacts the global economy generating jobs, income and business growth in all regions of the world.

“The potential for new cruise passenger growth is huge,” she added.

“Apart from North America and Europe, other regions of the world account for nearly 85% of the world’s population, yet represent only 16% of cruisers. That reflects a tremendous opportunity for the cruise industry.

“Asia is a prime example of the cruise industry’s growth opportunity. Our industry is bringing more cruise ship visits to Asia and the volume of cruise passengers sourced from Asia for cruise tourism worldwide nearly doubled since 2012.”