A positive outlook for the cruise industry

Cruise Line International Association’s Kelly Craighead briefs CFR on the industry’s key updates

A positive outlook for the cruise industry
Cruise lines are welcoming growing numbers of guests as they continue to resume sailings around the world

By Rebecca Barnes |

With post-pandemic recovery well underway and most ships in service once again, the cruise industry is almost back to what might be considered business as usual.

Now that a return to full normality is on the horizon, it is time for the industry to build on the momentum while keeping ships and passengers healthy and happy. The sector has clearly proven its resilience, but how have the changes been received and when is a full resumption likely? CFR catches up with Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) president and CEO Kelly Craighead for an update. 

What have you been your main focuses in the past six months? 

The cruise industry as a whole has been positively recognised for its overall response to the global pandemic, as well as the high bar that has been set for health and safety protocols. We are now moving with the same focus and determination against our ambitious long-term sustainability goals. Throughout the pandemic, our members and partners continued to make great headway towards responsible maritime and tourism practices, sustainability, and the implementation of new environmental technologies.  


What progress has been made since ships resumed sailing? 

The industry has proven its resilience throughout its more than 50-year history, evidenced by our responsible return to operations in July 2020 in Europe. About 10 million people have sailed worldwide since cruising resumed and today, the intent to cruise among both travellers who have cruised before and those who are considering it for the first time, is higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Nearly 100 per cent of the CLIA ocean-going cruise line fleet is on track to be back in service by mid-summer. The combination of the robust health and safety protocols implemented by the cruise lines with the passion of cruise travellers has created tremendous momentum for a successful restart. Importantly, the industry is supporting both an economic and societal recovery as more and more people are able to reconnect with family and friends during a cruise holiday.  

How is Covid-19 continuing to impact the industry?  

While it’s clear that Covid-19 is part of our society and likely will be for the foreseeable future, it’s also evident that cruise lines have demonstrated their ability and agility to mitigate the risk of the virus onboard ships more effectively than in virtually any other setting. In fact, compared to what we are seeing on land, even with the emergence and ebbing and flowing of new variants, the vast majority of cases identified on cruise ships have been mild or asymptomatic and there has been an extraordinarily low number of hospitalisations.  

We expect various protocols will ease as the public health environment continues to improve. The easing and alignment of travel restrictions has been critical to the rebound in travel and tourism in Europe, and I believe the US Administration’s decision to lift the testing requirement for international travellers to the USA will help increase the number of travellers visiting the country. We know that cruising is an influencing factor for 2.5 million international travellers who come to the USA each year. As of 2 June 2022, a total of 46 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no Covid-19 related restrictions in place, which has a huge impact on traveller decisions when choosing where to travel. 

What are your thoughts on progress in terms of sustainability goals? Is the industry on target to meet these? 

The cruise industry is committed to pursuing net-zero carbon cruising worldwide by 2050. Achievement of this ambitious target is supported by our intermediary objective, which was developed in line with international objectives, to reduce the rate of carbon dioxide emissions (carbon intensity) by 40 per cent by 2030. Our member lines are actively engaged in efforts to achieve actual carbon reduction at sea and at ports by investing in new ships, technology and alternative fuels. 

Alternative fuels currently being explored include a range of options such as biofuels, synthetic fuels, ammonia and methanol. Other efforts underway include exploring hybrid solutions, including new generations of fuel cell technology to cut carbon emissions further, and lithium-ion battery storage systems. CLIA member cruise lines have a more modern fleet than ever before, and every year it becomes more environmentally efficient. Meaningful progress has been made on each commitment toward a path to a better future. It’s also important to note that our cruise line members are also making efforts to ensure good health and well-being, gender equality and reduced inequalities, affordable clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, decent work and economic growth, and industry innovation and infrastructure. All of this is imperative to a sustainable future. 

What are your predictions for the industry in 2023? 

We expect cruise will return to being one of the strongest sectors of the travel and tourism industry in 2023 – and to help lead the industry in its pursuit of net-zero emissions and responsible tourism practices. With cruise well on its way to full resumption, we are building on an ambitious environmental agenda, which cruise lines initiated well before the global health crisis and continued during the pandemic for the long-term sustainability of the industry. Cruisers can expect lines to continue prioritising health and safety while delivering a best-in-class experience. From new amenities onboard to new ships, to advancements in environmental technologies and practices, and strong partnerships with ports, destinations, and the travel trade, cruising is the best way to see the world.  

Do you think we will see a full recovery in 2023 as predicted? 

More than 100 markets worldwide have reopened to cruising, and most cruise ships are back in service. We expect the full fleets of all CLIA cruise line member ships to be back in service by the end of summer 2022. The enthusiasm of travellers for cruise is evident in increasing passenger volumes, which are forecast to return to 2019 levels next year. We expect cruise to return to its original pre-pandemic growth forecast and fill the demand gap of 4.7 million passengers by 2025. 

Are you seeing any interesting trends emerging?  

According to the latest World Tourism Barometer released in the first week of June 2022, tourism continues to recover at a stronger than expected pace. Worldwide, the first quarter of 2022 showed a 182 per cent year-over-year rebound with an estimated 117 million international arrivals (compared to 41 million in 2020). As the travel sector continues to rebound, I think we are going to see an unprecedented demand for accredited travel advisors. Consumers are going to look to the experts to help guide and book their upcoming travel experience to help them make the most of their holiday.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.   

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