Boris Johnson’s support for the British cruise industry will be welcomed news for cruise liners around the UK. In his latest government briefing, the prime minister pledged to support the UK cruise industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic ‘in any way that we can’. However, the industry still faces a number of challenges in the long term.

The British cruise industry has been left reeling after months of suspensions created little to no revenue coming into companies. The prime minister saying he is willing to support companies is the first piece of good news that the industry has heard since the beginning of the pandemic.

Although the prime minister is supportive of the return of cruising, he is aware it will not be easy.

Johnson said: “Like all industries, the cruise industry is going to have to go through – in the short term at least – a period of self-reinvention to make sure it is Covid-secure.”

This period of self-reinvention will likely be in the form of stringent social distancing measures, as well as a number of new health and safety procedures. A minimum distance of 1.5m will be implemented, using aisles as ‘one-way-streets’. Floor markings and the reduced size of the dining areas are among other measures being suggested.

Furthermore, passengers and crew will likely be required to wear full mouth and nose coverings at indoor public areas. The number of people on excursions will certainly be reduced and cutlery racks, table decorations and menus may also be removed.

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These drastic changes will undoubtedly change the entire cruising experience. This makes it interesting to see if these measures will attract customers or deter them in the months ahead. Nevertheless, like many industries, cruise companies continue to teeter on the edge of financial ruin, meaning they have no choice but to operate under new Covid-19 related guidelines.

Finances are still critical

Although there are long term challenges, the short term ones still remain. With cruise traffic practically coming to a halt, it has become apparent that a number of cruise companies will need government support in order to survive. The financial strain of Covid-19 means companies will be desperate for any kind of government stimulus.

P&O Cruises suspended sailings until mid-October and Cunard until November. Cunard and P&O Cruises parent company Carnival UK started a consultation almost a month ago, culminating in 500 jobs being put at risk.

Clia UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer has welcomed the prime minister words.

Harmer said: “The prime minister’s words of support for the cruise industry are very welcome. The cruise industry voluntarily suspended operations as it was the right thing to do, while the world addressed the global health crisis. However, the impact of this suspension is being felt heavily not only by cruise lines but by people whose livelihoods depend upon the cruise industry such as travel agents, tour operators, taxi drivers and hoteliers.”

The government support is undoubtedly helpful. However, if it will be enough to keep companies afloat is yet to be seen.