There’s a lot at stake here – it’s not just our desire to see the industry come back.
Exactly when a cruise line recovery will happen is anyone’s guess at this point. While we certainly hope to be back on the high seas as soon as it’s safe, our desire to cruise again goes beyond the simple want for a getaway.
The cruise industry is a massive economic engine, and it plays an important part in the overall economy. According to CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association:
“The cruise industry is a vital artery for the U.S. economy, supporting over 421,000 American jobs, with every 30 cruisers supporting one U.S. job, and annually contributes nearly $53 billion to the U.S. economy. Cruise activity supports travel agencies, airlines, hotels and a broad supply chain of industries that stretches across the United States.“.
And that’s just in the United States. Globally, according to CLIA 2017 data, the cruise industry sees approximately 1.1 million jobs, 28.5 million passengers, and $45.6 billion in wages and salaries.
As the CDC recently announced an extension and modification of the cruise shutdown order, the question on everyone’s mind was “When will it be safe to cruise again”?
Not only did the order leave cruisers feeling confused by the three conditions CDC would require before cruises can return to service, the cruise lines themselves did not immediately react to the order. That lack of reaction left everyone wondering what was next and whether their planned cruise in the next 100 days would be impacted by the CDC order.
What needs to happen for a cruise line recovery?
We still don’t have all the facts, and this situation is changing by the hour. When we recorded a podcast episode last week on cruise line recovery, it was our intention to simply share our thoughts on what would need to happen for the cruise industry to bounce back. We think these points still apply, so we we’ll elaborate a bit on what we think is needed for a cruise line recovery.
#1: Cruise lines will implement steps to lessen the impact of outbreaks & openly share those plans.
Is the recent outbreak the cruise industry’s fault? NO, but…changes have to be made. We’re already seeing that some will blame the cruise lines so the industry will be forced to create campaigns to share the steps they are taking to lessen outbreaks, and regain confidence of travelers.
- This week, Genting Cruise Lines openly announced how they’d be changing their protocols. You can read more about those changes, including fresh air circulating through ships and staggered boarding in this article from Cruise Radio.
- Cruise lines will also have to increase the capability and manpower behind shipboard medical facilities to treat and handle a higher volume of medical situations. This seems inevitable to us, because it’s now a reality that cruise ships cannot rely on outside help at the level the industry previously could.
- Once the cruise lines have implemented steps to lessen outbreaks, they will likely put major focus on communicating how safe cruise travel is, and always has been.
- How effectively cruise lines communicate these plans can have a major impact on how soon they can attract NEW cruisers.
#2: Cruise lines will go beyond the health questionnaire.
Gone will be the days of the simple form you completed at the cruise terminal asking if you had a fever or gastrointestinal symptoms. The cruise lines can’t trust the “honor system” protocol any longer. As an integral part of the cruise line recovery instead we’re likely to see:
- Enhanced cancel for any reason policies.
- Increased regulations on who can sail and under what health conditions.
- Required “fit to cruise” letters for certain passengers.
- Temperature checks at terminals and ports, at least in the short term.
- Enhanced onboard cleaning procedures.
- Food service changes (no more self serve buffets?).
- Protocols for when people get sick onboard.
- Capacity and cleaning changes to public places & gatherings such as shows, pools and hot tubs.
#3: Cruise lines will be forced to strengthen port relations.
Perhaps the most confusing and concerning trend throughout this entire global crisis has been ports turning ships away. Of course, this made sense in many cases, due to many reasons – including CDC advisories and lack of medical infrastructure.
But how does the industry move forward and prevent being turned away from ports? We believe this is a critical need for cruise line recovery. We don’t have the answer to this one, but here are some thoughts:
- Cruise lines will have to prove their self sufficiency.
- Cruise lines will ask passengers to have more flexibility surrounding port stops and port changes.
- Cruise lines will continue to report illnesses passenger and crew onboard to ports, but with greater detail and standardization.
- Outside organizations & government entities could offer global guidelines and support for when and if ships can be turned away.
What we DO know, is that better communication in this area will be key. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think port relations can be improved following a crisis like this.
#4: Cruise lines will be forced to cut costs.
The cruise lines, like so many impacted business, are hurting right now. How long the no sail order remains will impact their immediately viability, but there’s no doubt, cost cutting will be necessary.
- To improve profit margins (and survive), we may see cruise lines delay or cancel new ship builds.
- We’re already seeing some delays in upgrades and amplifications, and we anticipate cruise lines will cut spending on these renovations.
- They will cut spending and delay new projects. The Miami Herald reports the construction work for Royal Caribbean’s $300 million corporate headquarters in PortMiami is on hold due to uncertainty over the global health crisis.
- Layoffs are likely. Sadly, some cruise lines may be forced to downsize to free up cash reserves.
#5: Pent up demand may result in more cruise bookings.
- Once travelers trust cruises again, their may be a surge in bookings that will push the industry forward.
- If cruise lines KEEP their relaxed cancellation and refund policies, confidence may return faster.
- Creative offers and sales from cruise lines could drive sales. We expect cruise lines to create never-seen-before offers and incentives that not only save cruise travelers money, but offer peace of mind and added safety that surpasses other types of travel and vacations.
This global situation has had a huge effect on the way people think and feel about their vacations, but even moreso on the economy. We’d love to hear from you on this topic. Please feel free to direct message us on Instagram or Facebook with your thoughts, and until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas (when it’s safe)!