The UK’s maritime minister says supporting a “pathway” back for the return of cruising is one of his priorities.

Robert Courts said he expects the sector to “come back stronger and more ambitious than ever” and praised how cruise lines have worked with government to create the framework for when sailings resume.

In a statement to Travel Weekly readers for the annual cruise-themed edition, he said: “Our cruise industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 and the government has worked alongside the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart.”

Courts was unable to give a timeframe for the sector’s return as Covid cases and deaths in the UK continue at record levels but said the government “stands behind” the cruise sector in enabling the return of sailings.

Major lines such as P&O Cruises and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines have pushed resumption dates back to the spring.

Courts’ statement follows his appearance at the Clia Cruise Forum in October when he said a resumption date would be given by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce “when the time was right”.

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He added: “Our £10bn a year cruise sector, which supports over 80,000 jobs, is a true British success story. Throughout the pandemic, despite the difficulties it has faced, the sector has shown resilience and vigour and that is down to the individuals who make up our industry.

“Last year, the cruise sector spent significant amount of time learning lessons from the start of the pandemic and putting in place mitigations to create a Covid-19 secure environment on board. This hard work is reflected in the industry’s Covid-19 Framework for Cruise. We continue to work closely with the sector leadership, and provide support in mapping the restart route and enable cruises to prepare to set sail as soon it is safe to do so.

“Enabling the pathway for cruises to restart when the conditions allow is a priority for me. I am confident that the sector is going to come back stronger and more ambitious than ever before, and the government stands behind them in these aims.”