Covid-19 has strengthened a recent shift in consumer sentiment, with the pandemic further increasing concerns around environmental damage caused by the tourism sector. Cruise operators could be at risk of boycotts if they do not act fast and place environmental sustainability at the forefront of new developments.

Covid-19 has increased consumer concerns about the environment

GlobalData’s Week 11 COVID-19 Recovery Consumer Survey (2–6 December 2020) revealed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 31% of global respondents have made reducing their environmental footprint slightly / significantly more important than before, with a further 12% making it their top priority.

This significant shift in consumer sentiment towards limiting their environmental impact cannot be ignored. Cruising is not immune to this trend and will be impacted if action is not taken, with cruisers seeking alternative holiday options if change does not occur.

Plastic reduction is an easy place to start

Plastic reduction should be a key focus for cruise liners in the coming years. Consumers are becoming accustomed to selecting non-plastic alternatives, and the cruising sector must replicate this at sea to meet this change in consumer behaviour. The devastating impact plastic has on the oceans means it is paramount that cruise companies are seen as leaders in preserving the ocean environment, as it is where they operate.

It is about time the industry acts to fall in line with the initiatives taken on land. Firms, including Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line, have invested heavily to reduce single-use plastics onboard and have adopted eco-friendly alternatives, but others must follow. With a small investment, a large impact can be created, and it could be a quick win for the industry to reduce its environmental impact. Consumers will feel reassured that every viable step is being taken to make cruising more environmentally friendly.

New fuel technology will help

Recent advancements in alternative fuels for cruise ships will allow for a cleaner operating environment. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) could dramatically reduce emissions from cruise ships and has the potential to almost eliminate sulfur emissions and seriously reduce nitrogen oxide and greenhouse emissions. However, there are currently only two ships equipped with this propulsion technology, resulting in a slow rollout due to the inability to retrofit it to existing ships.

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In the short term, the benefits will be slow to materialise. However, once new ships begin to be delivered with the ability to be powered by LNG, a stepping stone could be provided for the industry to become even cleaner. This should help to address increased consumer concerns about their environmental impact and ensure the industry can meet the needs of future travellers.

Brands that invest heavily in overhauling their operations to become more eco-conscious will likely win consumers in a post-Covid-19 world. Parties across the supply chain must work together on sustainability initiatives to ensure cruising can be future-proofed and better meet the needs of eco-conscious travellers.