The rapid rebound of the sector from the eye of the Covid storm is quite remarkable, says Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley
It was fantastic to be back at the Clia Conference at the weekend and see some incredible ships amid much optimism from agents and operators alike.
There was plenty of discussion about the prospects for the future, but a comment from Royal Caribbean vice-president and Clia chair Ben Bouldin stood out as something of a line in the sand for the sector.
Bouldin made the point that after months of focus on the restart following the lengthy shutdown of operations, cruise can finally get back to thinking about pre-pandemic growth plans.
Logistical challenges remain as operators find their feet and deal with shortfalls in airlift and resources, in addition to geopolitical influences on confidence and deployment. But as a growing number of destinations make things easier for travellers to visit, it certainly feels the time is right to start looking to the future with a sense of stability and confidence.
New Zealand’s tourism minister recently said cruise would be used as a future case study for how an industry can respond in the face of adversity, adjust perceptions and come back stronger. And with more calls this week for the wider trade to work together to overcome operational challenges, the sector is also a great example of how ultra‑competitive rivals can unite around a single purpose for the greater good.
It really is remarkable that an industry battered and pilloried at the start of the pandemic and then shut down for more than 12 months is now talking about a possible record year as soon as 2023.