Cruise operator Royal Caribbean has urged its trade partners to prepare for a bounce back once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
In a video message to travel agents Ben Bouldin, EMEA vice president of the cruise line, indicated business could come back as soon as the third and fourth quarters of this year.
He said: “I would urge that everyone does keep an eye on the future opportunity that exists when we come through this, and we will.
“People are working from home right now. We are not allowed out a huge amount. There’s going to be a huge population if people desperate to take a vacation and Q3 Q4 could be a really exciting period of time for the holiday market, not to mention 2021.”
Royal Caribbean has been forced to suspend all sailings to May 12 and has brought in a Cruise With Confidence offer that allows customers to cancel with just 48 hours notice.
It is also offering credit certificates for cancelled holidays valid until the end of 2021.
Bouldin said: “These are incredibly strange times for all of us, strange professionally, strange personally, strange socially. Everything is different.
“We at Royal Caribbean are doing our best to adapt to the changing needs of the environment we find ourselves in.
“We are desperately sorry to have had to cancel loads of holidays. We are desperately sorry for the pain and the trouble this caused our travel trade as they look to support their guests in rebooking their holidays at a later time.”
Bouldin added Royal Caribbean will be ramping up support the trade during the COVID-19 lockdown despite the fact staff are working from home.
“I’ve said to my sales teams I want you to be more visible not less. Key account managers and remote sales force are all keeping in touch with their contacts who need our support,” he said.
“We are spending a lot of time now thinking about how we can help you, our travel trade partners, as we come through this.
“What are the great offers we can give you, what are the market insights we can give you, what are the great incentives we can offer?
“How do we surprise and delight your guests, how do we look at our loyalty? We have all of these great ideas and plans and we are really focused on them and I would urge you to find the time to do so as well.
“We will come through this. The Premier League will start to play again, the restaurant and bars around the country will start to be full again and the shops will re-open. When? No one knows entirely, but it’s important that we start to plan for that.
“In the mean time please stay safe. We will get through this and we will get through it together.”