VACATIONS

Communication Is Key for Cruise Industry Rebound

 

The single most important thing anyone, including travel advisors, can do to help the cruise industry in its recovery is to spread the message of how safe a cruise vacation is.

That was the top messages cruise executives had for attendees during the State of the Industry Keynote panel, at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami.

“The overwhelming thing we need to do is get the message across just how robust are the protocols that we have developed in conjunction with the CDC. In conjunction with public health authorities throughout the world,” said Richard Fain, chairman & CEO of Royal Caribbean Group.

Fain was one of four panelists that also included: Arnold Donald, president & CEO of Carnival Corp; Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises; and Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA. The session was moderated by Seema Moody, a Global Markets reporter for CNBC.

Panelists talked about the challenges they faced over the past 18 to 19 months, along with the need to reinforce how far ahead cruising is when compared to other segments of the travel and tourism industry.

Complexities Compounded
“We have emerged as one the world’s safest holiday options,” said Vago, adding that more than two million passengers have sailed since last summer when MSC resumed operations.

But the industry didn’t get there without bumps in the road.

Executives talked several times about how complicated the landscape has been over the past 18 months. Starting with needing to find ways to get their passengers and crew home at a time when countries were closing their borders. Then finding places to put their ships and take care of crew who couldn’t get home.

Most difficult, the executives agreed, has been working with health authorities worldwide.

“You have countries where each city will have a completely different approach to the port next door,” Vago said.

The complexities of working with so many health authorities in order to get cruise ships back up and running resulted in some of the most robust health protocols out there. Protocols that include mandatory testing, expanded medical facilities onboard, upgraded cleaning procedures and more.

“What we’re doing in our industry,” Fain said. “Other industries are looking at and saying that’s the way we want to be operating.”

And the message is starting to get across to cruisers, even skeptical new-to-cruise prospects.

“We all assumed when we started back it would be all repeat passengers and that it would take years to penetrate the rest of the market,” Fain said. “But that hasn’t happened. First-timers are coming and I think the reason is we are getting the message out.”

Word of Mouth is Key
The cruise industry is also getting help from cruisers who have recently returned.

“The most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth,” said Donald. “And as we continue to sail safely and successfully and people are having the time of their life, they’re going to share that.”

In fact, Donald added, their promoter scores are higher than ever. A fact Fain echoed as well.

Cruising has now resumed in more than 30 countries and the entire industry is expected to reach about 80{3132c872e6c78dc13c400a594a399f7f701f7fca090fe22c84668d12b33a9deb} of its capacity by the end of the year.

“We know where the road is headed,” said Donald. “To a very bright future.”