Cruise ships & ferries sail resurgent tourism wave

By Luke Barras-hill |

Discovery Princess.

Cruise and ferry operators are in buoyant mood in view of Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) forecast that almost 100% of fleets are due back in service by August 2022.

This is a preview of a dedicated report on the markets written by Claire Malcolm and available in the TRBusiness March/April e-zine, which is available online and in print at the forthcoming Summit of the Americas (10-13 April).

In its ‘2022 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook’ report, CLIA identifies ‘proven Covid-19 protocols’ as the key driver for fleet resumption, with 5.8 million passengers walking the gangway since July 2020.

Despite embarkations lagging behind 2019 figures (-81%), the industry has notched up around US$64.4 billion (-59%) in global economic contributions with more than 75% of ocean-going member capacity back in business.

This year is a pivotal one for the cruise industry, but optimism was dampened marginally following the February announcement of revised guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

‘SCALED REBOUND’ BY YEAR-END

CLIA deemed these ‘counterproductive’ and ‘out of step with the actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures’ [CDC later lowered the Travel Health Notice threat – Ed].

Nonetheless, stakeholders including the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) remain positive about the continued rebound following preliminary indications that FY 2021 tourist arrivals are expected to exceed 2020 levels by 60-70%.

A fashion boutique on MSC Grandiosa.

In a statement released in January, CTO said: “By mid-2021, we saw a turnaround in tourism activity, with the Caribbean exceeding the global average for stayover arrival growth and tourism’s contribution to GDP.

“During the third quarter of 2021, there were 5.4 million tourist arrivals to the region, almost three times the arrivals for the same period in 2020, but still 23.3% below 2019 levels. Preliminary reports suggest that this progress continued through to the end of the last quarter. Consequently, it is estimated that tourist arrivals for 2021 will exceed 2020 levels by 60-70%.

“While the results […] have not indicated a return to 2019 levels, the exceptional results recorded in the summer to year-end period of 2021 show that a scaled or gradual rebound is likely and very possible by the end of 2022.”

TRBusiness gathers that Caribbean destinations recorded 13.5m international tourist arrivals in the first three quarters of 2021 – some 4.6m more than the 9m in the same period of 2020. This corresponds to an increase of 50.9% compared to 2020, but a decline of 44.9% relative to the arrivals in 2019.

GAINS FOR MSC, DFDS, CARNIVAL, AIDA

MSC Cruises welcomed 13 ships back to sea in 2021, including latest fleet additions MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore.

Adrian Pittaway, Head of Retail, reports a ‘strong retail performance across all markets, ships and product categories’.

Itineraries were revived in nearly all regions, with MSC being the first international cruise line to start offering cruises out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“Our big challenge has been finding ourselves with older stock that couldn’t be sold during the pandemic,” Pittaway told TRBusiness. “We’re left with a need to liquidate [stock] to make room for newer products and get back into the flow of seasonal buying models.”

Iona from P&O Cruises made its maiden voyage in August last year and features the first-ever Mulberry boutique at sea, courtesy of Harding.

The company expects to return to regular seasonality for all its ships before  year-end.

Meanwhile, Steve Newbery, On Board Commercial Director for ferry operator DFDS, reports a similarly healthy 2021.

Last year, DFDS won a tender for a brace of new duty free shops at Calais and Dunkirk. These opened in late 2021.

“The return of duty free shopping to ferry routes operating to and from the UK should provide a real boost to our industry,” commented Newbery, with DFDS’ newest Dover-Calais ship, Côte d’Opale, providing an ‘innovative travel experience not seen before on a cross-Channel ferry’.

Across the Atlantic, Carnival Cruise Line plans to have all 23 of its ships operating by May. The debut of the new LNG-powered Mardi Gras, which boasts a retail footprint from Gebr. Heinemann, was a 2021 highlight.

The November 2022 unveil of another Excel-class ship in Carnival Celebration will happen in tandem with the opening of the re-modelled Port Miami cruise terminal.

Other cruise lines adding to their fleets include UK-based P&O Cruises, which launched its first Excel-class LNG-powered ship Iona in May. New sister vessel Arvia is lined up for December 2022.

Elsewhere, in Europe, Germany’s Aida Cruises reports strong demand for summer/winter cruises through to mid-2023 and 12 vessels are resurrecting sailings by early summer 2022; this is despite the replacement of St Petersburg on four of its itineraries.

To read the full report, including detail on the operators’ duty free and travel retail shopping plans, watch out for the TRBusiness March/April e-zine coinciding with the Summit of the Americas (10-13 April).

Print copies of the publication will be available from the press racks at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, West Palm Beach, Florida.

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