Advice against cruise travel will add insult to injury

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK extended its advice against cruise travel for UK citizens. Previously, this advice was for over-70s with underlying health conditions. However,  it now applies to all potential cruise travelers. This will push cruise operators further into financial turmoil as traveler confidence in booking a new cruise holiday for 2020 will decrease.

UK citizens are likely to take on board the advice of the FCO. A recent COVID-19 recovery survey by GlobalData (24th-28th June) found that 34% of respondents in the UK were ‘extremely concerned’ regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, 33% of UK respondents stated that COVID-19 will reduce international travel in the ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus outbreak. A concerned nation is likely to adhere to travel rules set out by government bodies in order to maintain health and wellbeing.

Whilst other parts of tourism have the green light to resume, cruises could be forced to take a step back.

Domestic tourism in the UK was given the go after the easing of lockdown measures in the hospitality industry was announced from July 4. With the Chancellor’s recent announcement of a decrease in VAT from 20% to 5% to help the hospitality and tourism industry, demand for domestic trips is currently surging.

Although the FCO advice is for health and wellbeing purposes, the impact it will have on cruise companies is far-reaching. Voluntary suspensions by cruise operators until the later months of the year has already caused a large cost. Holding ships at ports and refunding passengers that had their trips cancelled are just a few aspects that are causing liners to hemorrhage cash at a rapid rate. This advice against cruise travel will cut one of the only remaining revenue streams for cruise companies – new bookings. Travelers will be apprehensive to book a new cruise whilst the advice to not sail is still in place.

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Despite this, Carnival’s UK President Simon Palethorpe stated that confidence in cruising is ‘strong’. Carnival, which operates P&O and Cunard from the UK, is seeing a rise in demand from its guests. P&O and Cunard have both suspended operations until October and November, and are committed to working in partnership with all governing bodies.

Compared to airlines, who have had an opportunity to rejuvenate some operations after European holiday destinations opened borders to one another, cruises have not been given the opportunity to effectively restart operations. This will prolong the recovery of the industry, and may take some casualties with it along the way.

It will be difficult when cruises do resume

Due to social distancing rules, operating cruises will be difficult. On board passenger capacities will have to be cut, meaning that less cabins can be sold with a reduced number of passengers on board. As cruise operators do not know the length of time that social distancing will be the new normal, it will be hard for cruise companies to accurately sell available cabins on board. This could cause complications with bookings and cause passengers to be left unhappy with the service they received.

A large amount of investment will be required in order to implement hygiene measures, alongside the delivered training of these new protocols. As cruises are now known to be involved in the spread of viruses after highly publicized examples in the media, hygiene measures will have to be of the highest quality to be satisfactory for customers.