The boss of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has called on the government to provide more support for the cruise industry.
With cruise operations suspended until May 23 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK-based cruise line has been forced to dock its four ships.
Peter Deer, Fred Olsen’s managing director, praised the government for the schemes it had introduced to ease cash flow constraints on companies across the country but appealed for further help to be extended to the cruise sector.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government was prepared to enter negotiations with individual airlines to discuss “bespoke support as a last resort” last week.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Deer said: “As a cruise line you hear quite a lot about the airline industry receiving funding from the government. We’re quite a passive bunch. I suspect our margins are better but lining up ships is not a cheap thing to do.
“The government needs to recognise that cruise is a big part of travel in the UK and find ways to support it.”
He called for lobbying from “every angle”, adding: “This is a hairy time for every cruise line, particularly the ones that have brought in new tonnage. It makes your life a bit tougher.”
In Fred Olsen’s 2021-22 brochure, the line offers departures from five UK ports – Southampton, Newcastle, Dover, Liverpool and Edinburgh.
Deer outlined how food, fuel and other services are bought by Fred Olsen from UK businesses.
Deer added: “We are worth a huge amount to the UK market. When we talk about a holiday environment, money is spent on that destination but with a cruise line that money is spent on a ship.
“It would be great to see some positive spin from the government.”
Asked if Fred Olsen was preparing for a “bounce back” in terms of consumer demand later this year, Deer said: “I think at some point we will see it, but it is all about consumer confidence. People do not have the will to think about their holiday in the short-term.
“They do not know when this event is going to subside. Everyone wants to go on holiday but they need some confidence that the virus is going to disappear.”
Deer said that it was “too early” for targeted marketing but added that the business was still trying to remain at the forefront of customers’ minds.
“We are just talking about our company and what we are doing,” he said. “It is a broader approach.
“People will see if cruises go-ahead before they commit their money.
“People may not do long-haul fly-cruises. They may look to the Mediterranean or the Canaries. I think people just do not know.”