This is the view of Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises vp and md EMEA, and Craig Burton, ceo of Active Travel Group, a UK-based operator specialising in activity and adventure travel. They were speaking as panellists at a WTM session earlier this month, entitled ‘Reputations on the line: How can cruise, ski and airlines reinvent themselves post-Covid to win back consumers?’.
Both Jo and Craig suggested that the outlook for their industries was good, with significant pent-up demand.
Opening the session, Mark Frary, co-founder of Travel Perspective, a social and digital consultancy based in the UK, highlighted links between the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the cruising, ski, and aviation industries.
“COVID-19 and travel have been linked intricately since the start of the pandemic,” Mark said, highlighting the initial outbreak of 10 cases on the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which led to around 600 cases on the ship. “By early July, there were 3 000 cases associated with cruise ships… Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have advisories against cruising at present."
Ski resorts had also come under intense scrutiny, said Mark. One businessman, believed to have been infected on a business trip to Singapore, holidayed at the ski resort Les Contamines-Montjoie. “The chalet holiday was later identified as one of the first super-spreader events. Skiing was also highlighted as the potential cause of one of the worst outbreaks in Europe, in northern Italy,” said Mark, adding that resorts across Austria and Switzerland had also made headlines for their supposed role in spreading the virus.
Finally, Mark said the connectivity provided by the aviation industry had been suggested as the reason the virus has spread so quickly. According to a July survey, 57% of travellers said they had avoided air travel and a third suggested they would continue to do so in an effort to stop the virus.
Responding to this dire picture, Jo said that while the cruising industry had been “in the eye of the storm” eight months ago, the industry had learned a lot since then and had worked closely with the CDC to add new COVID-19 protocols to its existing hygiene protocols. One of these, she said, was that all crew and passengers were tested. She added that cruise lines across the board had committed to 100% testing of crew and passengers.
Arguing in favour of lifting advisories against cruising, Jo said safe cruise holidays were possible. “We understand that this is a pandemic, we understand that the health and safety of consumers is paramount. However, don’t treat cruising differently to the rest of the industry.”
Jo and Craig said cruising and ski holidays would look different in future. Jo said Royal Caribbean – of which Celebrity Cruises is a wholly owned subsidiary – would resume its operations at reduced capacity, which would also ensure that physical distancing was possible.
Craig pointed out that ski lifts in most countries were considered public transport and would therefore be subject to the COVID-19 protocols of their respective governments. “You will see face coverings; you will see restrictions on the occupancy of lifts.” He added that restaurants and bars would also look very different. He said Active Travel Group would be promoting breaks toward the end of winter, when outside dining in the open air was more feasible.
Lee Haslett, Virgin Atlantic vp Global Sales, also highlighted safety protocols that had been implemented by airlines. Virgin Atlantic was one of the first airlines to introduce COVID-19 insurance, offering customers peace of mind. Lee said airlines were aligned and, behind the scenes, had been working closely to lobby government, and stressed that comprehensive testing regimes needed to be put in place at airports.