The Covid-19 pandemic continues to cripple Thailand’s vital tourism sector, with provinces that rely the most on tourism revenue, being hit the hardest. Thailand may have managed to contain the Covid-19 virus, but at the expense of its economy going into a free fall with the southern resort province of Phuket exemplifying the downturn.
Phuket businesses, which rely almost exclusively on foreign arrivals for tourism income, cannot estimate when the island’s economic crisis, the worst ever, will be over. Firmly positioned as a world-class destination, Thailand’s largest island has earned vast revenue from foreign tourists, many with deep pockets. So when an unpredictable factor such as the Covid-19 pandemic forcing border closures and halting flights, Phuket’s income has slowed to a trickle, with its local economy at risk of a total meltdown.
The situation couldn’t more stark than in the popular party town of Patong. Usually a thriving and bustling tourist Mecca, full of bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, expensive markets, massage shops and Thais hustling the foreign tourists for tours and ‘deals’. The entire town exists as a seaside city designed to efficiently extract tourist dollars from the pockets of foreign visitors. Now it’s mostly a ghost town, certainly a much humbler and quieter city of closed shops and barren streets. A few hotels re-opened when the lockdown was lifted. Many have shut again since.
Phuket’s tourism sector employed 323,219 people locally before the virus struck in January, generating 245 billion baht (US$7.79 billion) in its annual gross provincial product, according to the new provincial governor Narong Woonsew. He says a whopping 80% of the province’s economy relies on tourism. The damage to the province’s tourism sector from impacts of the outbreak is estimated at 160 billion baht so far. Tourists visiting Phuket this year are predicted to shrink to 5 million or probably less, down from last year’s 14.4 million. Of those, 1.5 million will be Thais. Governor Narong says the situation is prompting a rethink of the province’s economic advancement strategy.
“After the government ordered the closure of our skies, Phuket’s tourism revenue was wiped out.”
Even when tourism resumes under the “new normal” practices, there will have to be a paradigm shift in the way the province determines where it will derive its income. According to Narong, the provincial office and tourism companies are looking to diversify and promote a variety of sectors to drive new growth. 6 sectors have been earmarked; marinas, education, health and wellness, seafood exports, gastronomy as well as sports and events businesses.
(The island’s marinas mostly serve as expensive parking garages for infrequent visits of the boat owners, or as a jump-off point for some of the more exclusive island tours. The booming international school scene was merely a response to the large foreign employee contingent who wanted a quality education for their children. The ‘wellness’ scene has suffered over the past 3 years with a strong Thai baht and expensive private hospitals pricing themselves out of a competitive regional market.)
“These will be our new economic engines which will function alongside the conventional tourism businesses,” the governor said.
Phuket is home to 5 marinas, 38 seaports and a deep-sea port. About 1,500 yachts and cruise ships visit the province each year on average.
As for education, the province is looking to create internationally accredited study programs to increase enrollments of foreign students. Already the location of 12 international schools, Phuket has set a yearly revenue target of 2.1 billion baht (US$66.8 million) from 3,600 students.
For tuna exports, the future looks bright. Phuket has both state-run and privately-owned wharves where more than hundreds of boats from Japan, Taiwan and the US arrive to buy top-grade tuna at high prices. The exports are worth 1.3 billion baht a year (US$41.3 million)
The gastronomy industry is a lucrative revenue stream which capitalizes on the island’s unique food culture at its nearly 2,000 restaurants. Annual turnover of the sector is estimated at 91 billion baht (US$2.89 billion) with more room to grow in the future.
Phuket is currently preparing 3 major events to promote tourism, with the minister of commerce overseeing the campaign. The events will start with the 5-week Phuket Seafood & Gastronomy Festival in August and September, followed by a surf competition in September, and concluding with the traditional Vegetarian Festival in October.
For now, it remains unlikely that many foreign tourists will be able to visit the island end enjoy any of them.
Having dodged Hurricane Douglas, Hawaii is back to the drawing board once again, trying to figure out a way to spark tourism and infuse some life into its struggling economy.
Many had hopes that the State’s mandatory 14-day quarantine would be lifted August 1st, reopening the doors to visitors and resuming some sense of normalcy. But the quarantine was recently pushed back, at least another month, to September 1st.
That leaves many hotels and tourism businesses in limbo once again, and a new idea has surfaced: If visitors have to quarantine, why not do it at a resort, and frame the trip as such? According to West Hawaii Today, that’s what resorts on Maui, Big Island, and Kauai are contemplating.
“[It’s] another idea we’ve been tossing out there,” Hawaii County Managing Director Roy Takemoto said. “They would be allowed to stay at selected resorts and the resorts would control where the visitors would be allowed to range.”
Here are some details about the new idea:
It’s Mostly About Marketing
Up until now, visitors arriving in the islands had to quarantine in their hotel room by law for 14 days. So, the only thing new here is that it expands a visitor’s range a bit: Instead of having to stay within their hotel room, they can now roam the property of the hotel as well.
But what the discussion of this suggests is that the State, and perhaps the resorts individually, would begin to market the quarantine concept as a vacation package of sorts, one that’s worthy of your time and resources, a “get away from it all” kind of pitch.
Visitors Would Be Quarantined by a ‘Geofence’ at ‘Select Resorts’
If implemented, the program would allow “select resorts” to operate a “resort bubble” and track the movements of their guests via a “geofencing” system, which would presumably sound alarm if anyone ventured off property. There are no details about how resorts would be fairly (or unfairly) “selected,” or how tracking would take place, but guests would have to agree to be tracked in order to book a stay.
Complications Won’t Go Away
This idea would still run into the same complications every other idea has had: With testing results taking up to a week and many cases of the virus asymptomatic, there is no way to guarantee safety within the resort bubble. With more employees coming back to work, they too could bring the virus with them. One positive test could be detrimental to the experiment - what then, would you do with the other guests?
And, of course, there will always be those who refuse to abide by the rules.
Would Guests Have to Stay a Full Two Weeks?
Another major unanswered question is whether guests would have to commit to a full 14-day stay, or whether they simply have to remain quarantined at the resort for their specific length of stay.
If they can stay for less than two weeks (the mandatory quarantine time), would they have to go directly to the airport upon checkout, or would they be allowed to move on and quarantine elsewhere for the remainder of the 14 days? How would that be tracked?
According to the tourism board statistics, the average length of stay in Hawaii in 2019 hovered between 9 and 10 days, so it remains to be seen just how much of a market there would be for this kind of offering.
And, obviously, there are still many unanswered questions, so, in reality, we’re probably not close to any big decisions here.
In the five months since the COVID pandemic started, the industry has seen a wave of research taking the pulse of leisure travelers and their desire to venture out again.
Some reports show a large percentage of travelers being extremely fearful, while a substantial minority aren’t even interested in venturing out locally. Still other surveys show a large swath of Americans eager to travel, viewing the Coronavirus as more of an impediment to traveling, but not a wall that prevents them from taking their next vacation.
One of the most consistent polling firms following the shifting mindset of the American traveler has been The Harris Poll, conducted by the globally famous company which has built its credibility on years of surveying Americans on a variety of issues.
According to the Harris Poll’s latest group of respondents, surveyed July 2-4, one out of four Americans would stay in a hotel immediately after the government says the virus has been flattened, while one out of five Americans would take a flight. Sixteen percent would take a cruise fairly immediately.
Another poll, commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), shows that 57% of Americans expect to take an overnight vacation via car, in the next three months, versus only 17% on a plane. Nearly one out of five (18%) Americans say they are planning an overnight vacation of some kind in a camper or RV in the next three months, while only 7% said they were planning to take a cruise in that time-frame.
Steve Cohen, founder and managing partner at Stelico Consulting Group, LLC, an Orlando-based data intelligence company, is concerned that too many travel industry entities are producing polls more for obtaining media impressions than for providing intelligence to the travel industry.
“When I look at these results, I wonder, what are you really telling me here?” said Cohen, who was especially critical of one-time surveys that have no reference points for previous years. “If you’d asked the question last year, where’s the comparison before anyone heard about Coronavirus?”
The Harris Poll is into its 19th Wave of surveying American adults, shows that for certain travel categories, the initial consumer confidence in traveling has waned somewhat. For example, back in early March, approximately 40% of adults were comfortable taking a flight within a three-month window of the U.S. government declaring the COVID “curve” was flattened.
Today, that share of American adults has dropped to 30%. At the same time, the 20% of adults who were saying that they would wait a year or longer to take a flight has grown to 31%
“When this first started, most of us believed we would shut down the economy, and we’d flatten the curve,” Cohen said. “But that hasn’t happened, so it’s no surprise that the people who were taking the virus more seriously then, are taking the virus even more seriously now. And the people who were always willing to travel, still want to travel like they wanted to at the beginning.”
Still, Cohen cautions travel advisors about taking too much away from any company’s surveys, because travel booking behaviors likely will change if there is a change in the nature of the virus.
“If we see another large jump in new people getting the virus, or a large jump in deaths, that could change everyone’s opinion,” he said.
“As the number of new COVID cases increases, there is a corresponding decrease in bookings to major destinations,” said Bruce Rosenberg, President, Hotel Planner & Meetings.com.
Where do consumers feel safe?
Digging deeper into the AHLA survey, there is some indication that consumers trust traditional hotels more than they trust home shares [e.g. Airbnb, VRBO] in this current environment. Some 71% of respondents said they would be interested in staying in a hotel for their next trip, versus only 46% interested in a “short-term rental.” In fact, the accommodations most consumers are comfortable with are “staying overnight with family or friends” (79%).
Cohen advises advisors to try to understand what their clients are thinking, because assumptions might not be accurate.
“There’s two sides to the decision of where to stay,” said Cohen. Some people might be more comfortable staying in a home share because it means limited interaction with other guests. There might even be some remoteness if you’re booking a home away from even a mountain resort destination. But if I go to Hyatt, I understand what they tell me the safety and cleaning protocols are.”
Cohen believes the AHLA results might also reflect the respondent’s travel history. “Do I know enough about vacation rentals to speak knowledgeably about them if I have never stayed in one? More people have stayed in hotels, so they have the experience to make them feel more comfortable with their assessment.”
If an advisor is interested in trying to book road trips for their clients, how far might travelers be willing to drive? According to the AHLA survey, some 20% want to drive less than two hours, 35% will drive 2-4 hours, but 40% would be okay with driving four hours or longer.
Also, most of the AHLA respondents said they are looking for two-night stays (33%), while 19% are interested in 3-night stays, and 14% are looking for four nights away. Interestingly, 16% would be interested in a stay of 5-7 nights, and 7% are interested in 8 or more nights.
July 24, 2020 | Report McKinsey Consulting
With the opening of borders and the relaxation of travel restrictions in most of Europe in mid-June, we are seeing an initial restart of the travel industry. Hotels are reopening, and airlines are resuming flights on a reduced but regular schedule. Majorca, one of the most popular destinations for German vacationers, was allowing a limited number of German tourists as a part of its trial reopening.
The restart of travel after the COVID-19 lock-down raises many questions:
These myriad open questions reveal the intense uncertainty associated with both what post-COVID-19 vacation travel patterns will look like and how companies in the industry, such as public tourism authorities or accommodations and transportation providers, should respond to the changing tourism landscape.
Our already available reports bring together lessons learned from other countries, especially China, analyze scenarios for the recovery of US hotel occupancy, and together with IATA provide ways to track and understand demand recovery.
In this report, we draw upon the insights from our proprietary travel dashboard, developed in partnership with trivago. We identify and quantify key emerging travel trends, discuss their impact on vacation travel patterns, and provide guidance on how travel industry players can utilize data insights to manage the resulting situations. There is no doubt about ambiguity within the industry and the limited data transparency to understand demand development. At the same time, the travel industry needs to look beyond the challenge and see the opportunity.
Eight trends shaping the post-COVID-19 travel market
While there are several individual anecdotes and even more opinions about how the crisis has shaped the travel market, data and empirical evidence have been limited so far. That said, observations from recovering travel markets may demonstrate early patterns, giving travel players a head start. We chose Germany as a reference point due to its position as the largest European and third-largest global international travel market, and the fact that its metrics are commonly seen as leading the recovery curve.
Eight important—and, in part, mutually reinforcing—trends that have emerged during the COVID-19 crisis can be observed.
1. Travelers are showing increasing appetite for and confidence in travel
During the lockdown, search volume dropped to only about 10 percent of the pre-pandemic volume, and actual click-outs (redirections to provider websites) dropped even more sharply. Today, search volume is up to 55 percent of where it was at the beginning of the year, and the conversion rate has been almost fully restored: about 99 percent of the rate from the beginning of the year.
2. Domestic travel is outperforming international travel for the first time
Historically, search volumes from January to July favored international destinations about 27 percent higher than domestic ones. The earlier opening of the domestic market while international restrictions remained has reversed this trend, giving domestic travel the lead. In fact, June showed about 36 percent higher domestic demand than international.
3. Last-minute bookings are gaining in importance
Potentially due to the uncertain epidemiological situation at the peak of the crisis (April to May), travelers had been planning both their domestic and international travel for later in the summer. The lifting of restrictions, which went into effect on June 15 for European countries, appears to be behind a surge in last-minute bookings. This year’s share of June and early-July travel bookings with a start date within 30 days after booking has exceeded the respective share of June and July 2019 bookings by 7 percent.
4. German travelers stick to their favorite pre-COVID-19 destinations abroad
Two of Germany’s neighbors, Austria and the Netherlands, are among the most popular international destinations as travel resumes. Search volumes and conversion rates for both countries have been growing since May. This may be due to the ease and perceived relative safety of travel to these countries. Nevertheless, German travelers’ current list of top vacation destinations extends well beyond the border and even includes countries severely hit by COVID-19 such as Italy, Spain, and France.
5. Travelers are turning to German seaside alternatives
Among domestic destinations, the attractiveness of Germany’s coastal regions (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig Holstein) has increased significantly. Along with mountain and other nature-focused regions, domestic coastal destinations have been considerably more in demand since the outbreak of the crisis.
6. Longer trips gain in popularity
Demand for longer trips (more than seven days) has not only recovered but has exceeded pre-crisis levels. Demand for one- to two-day travel, despite a dramatic recovery since May, is still around 63 percent of where it was at the beginning of 2020. Considering the financial impact of the crisis, it is possible that travelers are choosing to skip weekend getaways in favor of longer summer holidays with their families.
7. Demand for vacation homes nearly doubled during the crisis
The total demand for vacation rentals increased during the crisis, up approximately 78 percent from March 2020 to its peak in May. For domestic travel, the demand even more than doubled during its peak in May 2020 versus March 2020. We saw the overall share of vacation rentals begin to decline in June as many hotels resumed operation, but the share remains significantly higher than it was pre-crisis.
8. Despite a drop in prices, travelers’ willingness to pay for nature-oriented destinations remained almost unchanged
An analysis of price development since March determined that though travelers were mostly offered lower prices, they were still willing to pay 2019-level prices or higher for mountain, coastal, and other nature-oriented destinations. By contrast, travelers headed to city destinations, which are more dependent on a mix of business and leisure travel, were more price sensitive. These travelers paid less than they did last year.
The current COVID-19-related developments and dynamics in the travel industry are unprecedented, but there is little empirical data to point to the drivers of these shifts in the market. However, analysis shows that certain patterns and “industry rules” still seem to be valid when combined appropriately. It goes without saying that many players in the industry are currently being forced to rethink their business models and improve their adaptivity to quickly changing external events. Those that can do so will be well positioned to identify, utilize, and benefit from new opportunities.
Understanding destination attractiveness can help industry players navigate these uncertain and continuously changing times. Our approach in this analysis could extend to other countries of origin (for example, the United States), destinations, detail levels (for example, the US at state level), as well as additional time frames and circumstances even beyond the here and now of the COVID-19 crisis.
For full 19 page report including three cases studies click below.
“No crystal ball can tell us what the future of travel will be, and we will not find the right solutions to today’s fluid situation overnight. This will take time, patience, and probably many attempts as we learn together. But travel companies need to embrace the challenge to come back better.”
That’s how McKinsey & Company research and consulting firm ended its most recent look at the travel industry, which it titled “Make it better, not just safer: the opportunity to reinvent travel.”
In the piece, researchers, while calling the COVID-19 pandemic a “crisis” for the travel industry, also proclaimed that now is the time for change in the industry, a time not only to improve health and safety measures, but to make travel more exciting to increasingly unsure consumers.
“Travel companies need to excite and attract consumers as well as reassure them,” McKinsey wrote. “To achieve this, leaders should focus on making travel better—not just safer—which means giving travelers more control, offering greater authenticity and personalization, and taking a customer-centric, agile approach.”
While the piece focused on the travel companies and suppliers who will be altering and changing operations as the world moves through the pandemic, there are key points that advisors should look at in order to keep their business healthy, and clients engaged, during the COVID-19 period.
1. Continue improving on pain points that existed prior to COVID-19.
Part of that, McKinsey said, is to recognize that the bad parts of travel, the common pain-points that hung around travel discussions prior to COVID, are still there. The firm mentions better customer experience at airports, which were underway prior to the pandemic, as something that won’t disappear with the virus.
Also, the “high-anxiety purchase journey for flights and lodging, meaningful purchases that often cannot be returned” will remain and could only get worse. That’s an issue, however, that will not be a problem for the consumers who are using a travel advisor to book their trip, or those who choose to use that booking path upon returning to travel.
Some major changes that travel companies are seeking would be difficult to do so in the current economic environment, but “the good news is that some of the necessary changes will require no significant capital outlay but instead a change in mindset toward customer experience.”
2. Listen and be flexible.
In the piece, researchers found that “companies that surpass their peers in customer-experience design tend to share a set of features,” including having teams that design and deliver the kind of customer experience that not only makes consumers feel comfortable, but safe, will be the ones to earn back consumers’ trust the quickest.
“Cross-functional agile squads that break down traditional silos and collaborate more efficiently can help their companies move quickly to address changing traveler needs across the journey,” McKinsey writes.
Being able to replicate the experience that customers want and moving quickly to “address changing traveler needs across the journey” is key for travel companies and advisors alike. The world is going to change, and companies and travel advisors who are ready and willing to adapt to that change will be the ones that succeed.
3. Personalization still matters.
Something else McKinsey believes is going to not only remain important, but proliferate, is the shift to a more personal experience—another boon for advisors competing with OTAs.
“Before the crisis, personalized and unique experience constituted a dominant trend. Boutique hotels, for instance, were the fastest-growing hotel segment in the United States.”
Personalization post-COVID will be taken a step further, as companies are looking for new ways to connect. The piece mentions how some hotel staff were calling first responders who were quarantining in their hotels during COVID, and airlines addressing passengers pre-flight away from the typical pilot script, as some examples of a more personalized experience.
It’s not more marketing, either, as “mass emails from the CEO can only go so far, and consumers are already reporting fatigue around ‘we’re all in this together’ messaging,” instead it is making sure clients know they have a real person on the other line who will go “out of their way to solve traveler needs rather than just optimizing against the competition.”
For full report click below.
Nearly 200 people have been arrested for violating Hawaii's 14-day mandatory quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic since the state implemented the rule in late March.
According to a release issued Friday by the state's Hawaii Covid-19 Joint Information Center, a total of 182 people have been arrested by state or county law enforcement on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island. (The figure includes arrests on Oahu made by the attorney general’s office, but the Honolulu Police Department groups statistics on quarantine violations together with violations on all emergency orders.)
“It’s a monumental effort to keep track of everyone who should be in quarantine and it involves a hui of law enforcement agencies, representatives of Hawaii’s visitor industry, state transportation workers, and the community generally,” the release said.
On Thursday, Gov. David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors and Paul Jones, deputy chief for the Department of the Attorney General Investigations Divisions, answered questions from the community via Facebook Live regarding the enforcement and efficacy of the quarantine rule.
“I do believe that the quarantine has been a significant part of our success here in Hawaii,” Ige said in the video update.
The officials explained that the state checks in with individuals who are supposed to be quarantining through Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state Department of Transportation, both of which have set up call centers for this purpose. Those in quarantine also have the option to interact with state officials through an app to provide updates on how they are feeling.
In addition, the state conducts face-to-face compliance checks to ensure that both travelers and residents who have recently returned from a trip are at their designated quarantine location. Jones said that his team has conducted more than 350 compliance checks since June 10. He said that when they have made the face-to-face check-ins, “people have, for the most part, been at their quarantine location.”
Officials are currently tracking about 7,145 individuals.
Connors said that 80-90 people have also been turned away at the airport upon arrival.
If an individual is suspected of violating the quarantine, Connors explained that it turns into an investigation where officers must gather evidence before making an arrest. Investigations involve surveillance, interviewing witnesses and gathering video footage.
Officials said that they often rely on witnesses, including neighbors or hotel workers, to report violations, but reminded people that they should contact law enforcement to report an incident — and not try to handle the situation on their own.
Connors said that they are considering apps and other technology to monitor travelers, which could also help in contact tracing.
Earlier this week, Ige announced that the state would extend the 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers through Sept. 1. On Friday, he formalized the decision by signing a new emergency proclamation.
Under the quarantine, visitor arrivals to Hawaii have dropped dramatically. According to HTA data, arrivals dropped by nearly 100% year-over-year during both April and May.
However, hundreds of visitors do still arrive every day. HTA reported that a total 2,616 passengers arrived in Hawaii on Thursday, including 737 visitors.
July 17 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has extended the ‘no sail order’ on cruise ships as a result of the continuing global spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The original order banning ships from the seas was imposed in March and has been extended for the second time until 30 September. The CDC said that as of 10 July, almost 3,000 cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illness have been recorded on cruise ships, including 34 deaths.
The CDC said its data revealed 99 different outbreaks on 123 ships, which the experts said meant that 80% of ships within the US jurisdiction have been impacted by the pandemic. Currently, nine have ongoing virus outbreaks on board and much more needs to be done before passengers can return, the CDC said in a press release Thursday.
“On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings,” the CDC noted, as it justified the continued ban on ships that can carry 250 passengers or more.
“Even when only essential crew are on board, ongoing spread of COVID-19 still occurs. If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, passengers and crew on board would be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and those that work or travel on cruise ships would place substantial unnecessary risk on healthcare workers, port personnel and federal partners and the communities they return to.”
While the industry body, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has agreed to continue suspending passenger operations voluntarily, the CDC said it was extended the ‘no sail order’ to ensure that no ships outside the association set sail with any passengers before the end of September.
Cruise ships played a significant role in spreading the virus around the world. The cruise companies already had a poor reputation for the way other infectious diseases and food poisoning outbreaks have been handled.
In recent years the cruise companies also had to deal with negative publicity swirling round the industry regarding the exploitation of workers and an appalling environmental record, as well as a backlash from the communities in many ports of call.
For complete CDC Directive click below
JULY 17, 2020
Cruise lines around the world will be reopening this summer and fall as the cruise industry looks to start its recovery.
There are a lot of factors that have to come together to make these sailings happen but one thing's for sure.
People still want to cruise.
We will be choosing one cruise line to work with once the industry reopens to show what it's like to cruise in a post pandemic world so stay tuned to Travel Off Path!
Important Note: These are projected sailing dates from each cruise line. Cruise line suspensions can be extended at any time. This information is based on information directly from the official website for each Cruise Line. Sailings and reopening dates can change without notice.
We do not endorse or encourage traveling against government and health travel advisories.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities before booking travel.
Cruise Lines Reopening Dates
AIDA Cruises has officially announced they will be reopening sailings on August 5th, 2020.
AIDA Cruises said on Thursday it would resume sailing operations in August, months after cruise operators were forced to pause voyages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In view of the gradual easing in intra-European travel, we are pleased that we can start our first short trips to the North and Baltic Seas in August 2020.” the official statement said.
Read all the details on the reopening of AIDA cruises
Ama Waterways has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 3rd, 2020.
The first sailing features the 7 night ‘Taste of Bordeaux‘ river cruise through Spain and France on the AmaDolce.
AmaWaterway's summer schedule will largely depend on European regulations and the ability of North American travelers to fly
Reopening Health Protocols: Travel Off Path has reached out to Ama Waterways and will update this article when we hear back.
American Cruise Lines
American Cruise Lines has scheduled their reopening cruise for July 22nd, 2020.
The first sailing features an 11 day Grand New England cruise departing from Boston.
Reopening Health Protocols: Travel Off Path has reached out to American Cruise Lines and will update this article when we hear back.
American Queen Steamboat Company
The American Queen Steamboat Company has scheduled their tentative reopening cruise for August 15th, 2020 featuring a 9 day sailing from New Orleans to Memphis onboard the American Duchess.
Currently the CDC has a no sail order in place for the United States which isn't set to expire until September 15th. Since this is a river cruise, it's unclear if the no sail order applies to The American Queen Steamboat Company.
Reopening Health Protocols: American Queen Steamboat Company has launched health and safety procedures including pre-cruise screening, boarding procedures, sanitation measures, additional medical resources and ground transportation sanitation.
Avalon Waterways has scheduled their reopening cruise for July 26th, 2020.
Avalon Waterways shows availability on July 26th, 2020 for a 6 day cruise from Frankfurt to Nuremburg
Reopening Health Protocols: Avalon Waterways has launched extensive healthy and safety measures for their reopening. Protocols include social distancing measures, advanced technology including electrostatic disinfecting systems and UV disinfecting systems. No air is circulated between cabins.
Azamara Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 19th, 2020 from Barcelona.
The 7 night sailing from Barcelona to Spain will be on the Azamara Pursuit.
Reopening Health Protocols: Azamara has implemented strict health and safety protocols including the following
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 28th, 2020.
Originally planned for late July Bahamas Paradise had to postpone their sailing until August the company has announced.
“In recent days, amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases in many states across the country, we’ve seen mounting pressures to modify reopening plans and consideration of the return of stay-at-home orders,” he said. “Additionally, new restrictions from the Bahamas have been announced, requiring travelers to present a negative swab test prior to entry. In an effort to provide the safest environment for our passengers and crew, we have no choice but to further postpone our sailing schedule.”
Carnival Cruises has has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 25th, 2020.
Australia Launch: The first cruise departing on September 25th will be from Sydney, Australia on the Carnival Splendor featuring a 4 day cruise with a stop at Moreton island.
The second cruise departing on September 29th from Sydney, Australia will feature port stops in Mare, Mystery Island, Lifoe Isle and Noumea on the Carnival Splendor.
US Launch: 4 Day Round Trip Cruise to the Bahamas on October 1st sailing aboard the Carnival Ecstasy
Here is everything you need to know including health and safety measures regarding the Carnival Cruise reopening.
Celebrity Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise on September 16th, 2020.
The first cruise will feature a 12 night Spain, France and Italian Riviera cruse departing from Barcelona on the Celebrity Apex
Read more information on the Celebrity Cruises reopening.
Celestyal Cruises has scheduled their reopening for March 6th, 2021
“We will now shift our full attention to developing both 2021 and 2022 business where we are seeing encouraging signs of pent-up demand and be well prepared to implement all enhanced health protocols that will ultimately be established by the EU and the countries where we operate,”
The Celestyal Crystal will be the first of its two vessels to return to sea when it embarks on the first of its seven-night “Three Continents” itinerary on March 6. The other ship, Celestyal Olympia will follow on March 15 when it sets out on its four-night “Iconic Aegean” route.
Costa Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 13th, 2020.
The first sailing features a Japan cruise for 5 nights departing from Fukuoka on August 13th.
Costa has updated its cruise cancellation policy so that passengers are able to cancel right up until 48 hours before the cruise.
Health and Safety Protocols: Costa has not yet announced their health and safety plan for the reopening of sailings.
Stay tuned to the latest updates on their ‘cruising soon‘ page.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages
Cruise and Maritime Voyages has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 26th, 2020.
The first sailing features a 7 night River Seine Experience cruise departing from Liverpool.
Health and Safety Protocols: Crusie and Maritime Voages has not yet announced their health and safety plan for the reopening of sailings.
Crystal Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 1st, 2020
The first sailing on October 1st features a 7 night cruise from Miami to San Juan on the Crystal Serenity.
Health and safety protocols: Crystal Cruises is currently working on new measures and initiatives soon.
Crystal cruises is will known for offering double the space per person of similar size ships.
Cunard has scheduled their reopening cruise for November 4th, 2020
The first sailing features a 12 night Norway and Northern light adventure on the Queen Victoria departing from Southampton.
Port stops include Stavanger, Alesund, Narvik and Tromso.
Health and safety protocols: Cunard has not yet released their reopening health protocols. Stay tuned to their alert page for more information.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 4th, 2020.
The first Disney Cruise available will be a 5 night sailing from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas on October 4th, 2020, according to the sailings available on their website.
Disney Cruises October reopening will feature 17 itineraries on board the following Disney ships:
Dream Cruises has scheduled their reopening sailings from September 2nd, 2020.
A company statement on the recent delay read “Genting Dream is tentatively scheduled to commence her deployment in Singapore from 31 July 2020 onwards, subject to further confirmation from the local authorities. Any inconvenience is regrettable and we thank you for your kind understanding on this necessary change of itinerary”
As there are no cruises for sale in August, we believe Dream Cruises will not officially sail until September. We will update this article if it changes.
According to the official Dream Cruises website, the first sailing available is on September 2nd, 2020 featuring a 2 night sailing from Singapore on the the Genting Dream.
Health and Safety Protocols: Dream Cruises has not released any official updates at this time for reopening.
Emerald Waterways has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 5th, 2020.
One of the first Emerald Waterways cruises available will be a 7 day sailing from Amsterdam to Basel on September 5th, 2020.
Health and Safety Protocols:
According to Emerald Waterways, “Emerald Waterways will ensure that we adhere to the highest of hygiene and cleaning protocol on all ships and all tours when operating. Thorough cleaning will be conducted regularly, and hand sanitisers are located throughout the ship to ensure the highest level of personal hygiene while on board.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Fred Olsen Cruise Line has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 1st, 2020.
The first Fred Olsen cruise available will be a 28 night round trip sailing from Dover, United Kingdom featuring stops in Greece, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and Russia.
Health and Safety Protocols: The Fred Olsen Cruise Line website states “we’re busy ensuring everything is ready for when the time is right to cruise again. We can’t wait to set sail and show you the world again very soon.”
Holland America Line
Holland America has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 27th, 2020.
The first Holland American Cruise available is a 26 day south-pacific crossing departing from Seattle Washington to Sydney, Australia.
Note* Australia has not made an announcement that they will reopen their borders, so this cruise could be postponed but is still listed on their website for sale.
Health and Safety Protocols: Holland America has implemented numerous sanitation measures and are listening to the advice of medial experts and authorities. See the prevention measures Holland America has taken so far.
Hurtigruten cruises has reopened as of June 16th, 2020.
The first voyage was the MS Finnmarken that departed Bergen on 16 June, 2020.
The following voyages will be on MS Richard on 19 June, MS Trollfjord on 21 June, and MS Midnatsol on 24 June.
The four ships will sail their original routes back and forth between Bergen and Kirkenes.
Further restart and sailings for other ships will be considered dependent on national and international travel restrictions and government support
Hurtigruten cruises has already rolled out their health and safety protocols. See what you can expect on board.
Jalesh cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 21st, 2020.
The first voyage will be a 3 day, 2 night round trip cruise from Mumbai to Diu.
Jalesh Cruises has yet to release their Covid-19 prevention measures for their October launch but we will update the information here as soon as they do.
Marella Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 28th, 2020.
The first voyage available on the website is a 7 night Adriatic Explorer Cruise on the Marella Explorer.
Marella Cruises has yet to release their Covid-19 prevention measures for their October launch but we will update the information here as soon as they do.
MSC cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 16th, 2020.
The first cruise is scheduled to depart on August 1st for a 7 night Mediterranean sailing.
According to the MSC website, 14 cruise ships are scheduled to depart that day.
See the complete list of MSC ships and destinations scheduled for August.
Health and Safety Protocols: MSC Cruises will soon announce the support of a new operating protocol especially focused on health and safety and that covers the guest cruise experience from booking all the way to disembarkation.
Norwegian cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 1st, 2020.
According to the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) website, one of the first sailings is a 4 day cruise departing from Miami on the Norwegian Sky to the Bahamas.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Norwegian Cruise Lines is the first major cruise line to announce their reopening health and safety protocols. Watch the new video.
See the 10 ports Norwegian will be departing from in October/November and everything you need to know about the relaunch.
Oceania cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 4th, 2020.
According to Oceania website, one of the first sailings is a 17 day cruise from Lisbon to Monte Carlo.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Oceania Cruises has yet to release their Covid-19 prevention measures for their October launch but we will update the information here as soon as they do.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
Paul Gauguin Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for July 29th, 2020.
“We hope you and all of your loved ones are well. We are pleased to announce that we are resuming our Tahiti and French Polynesia voyages starting in July 2020 and have released our comprehensive “Covid-Safe Protocol.”
According to the Paul Gauguin cruise website, the first sailings is a 10 night cruise through the Society Islands.
Ponant Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for July 18th, 2020.
According to the Pontant cruise website, one of the the first sailings is a 7 night France Cruise.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Ponant Cruises has yet to release their Covid-19 prevention measures for their July launch but we will update the information here as soon as they do.
P&O Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 16th, 2020.
According to the P&O Cruise website, one of the the first sailings is a 14 night transatlantic cruise from Southampton to Barbados on the Azura.
Health and Safety Protocols:
P&O Cruises has yet to release their Covid-19 prevention measures for their October launch but we will update the information here as soon as they do.
They did release the following statement regarding health and safety.
“Along with the rest of the world, we will adapt. We will work closely with medical experts and global authorities to help us determine the best way to move forward while honouring our highest responsibility – the health, safety, and wellbeing of our guests, crew and communities we visit, along with compliance and environmental protection.”
Princess Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 19th, 2020.
The following Princess Cruise Ships are scheduled to be reopening for sailings in September:
See the complete list of port destinations and everything you need to know about the Princess Cruises Reopening.
Travel Off Path does not recommend booking with Pullmantur Cruises at this time. On Monday, June 21st, 2020, Spanish cruise operator Pullmantur Cruises, which is partly owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, has filed for reorganization under Spanish insolvency laws, Royal Caribbean Cruises said Monday.
“Despite the great progress the company made to achieve a turnaround in 2019 and its huge engagement and best efforts of its dedicated employees, the headwinds caused by the pandemic are too strong for Pullmantur to overcome without a reorganization,” Pullmantur’s board of directors said in a statement.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 4th, 2020.
According to the Regent cruise website, the first sailings is a 10 night cruise from Athens to Istanbul onboard the Seven Seas Splendor.
Health and Safety Protocols: Regent Seven Seas cruises has already launched a full reopening plan including health and sanitation measures to protect their guests.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection has announced sailings will finally launch on April 22, 2021
According to the Ritz Carlton Websites, the first sailings is a 9 night cruise from Lisbon to Palma De Mallorca.
Royal Caribbean is targeted to reopen sailings for September 18th, 2020
China Reopening: The first scheduled reopening sailing departs August 19th, 2020 from Shanghai on a 4 night cruise from Beijing to Japan
United States Reopening: One of the first scheduled reopening sailings departs on October 2nd, 2020 from Miami on a 3 night round trip cruise to the Bahamas.
We will update this article with the first sailing once they have updated their website accordingly.
Read all the information on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Reopening.
Saga Cruises is targeted to reopen sailings on September 9th, 2020
The first sailing features a 7 night Norway cruise from Newcastle.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Travel Off Path has reached out to Saga Cruises for an update on their health protocols and will update this article soon as we hear back.
Seabourn Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for October 14th, 2020.
According to the Seabourn website, the first sailings is a 33 Day Panama Canal Cruise from Los Angeles to Miami.
Health and Safety Protocols:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to work in close coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other global health experts, to develop enhanced procedures and protocols to further elevate our already high standards for health and safety on board our ships,” Seabourn stated on their website.
For more information regarding Seabourn's health and safety plan for reopening see their ‘Traveling and Staying Healthy‘ page.
SeaDream Yacht Club
SeaDream Yacht Club reopened on June 20th, 2020.
“We are pleased to announce that we are resuming operations this summer. The first voyage starts on June 20th from the picturesque city of Bergen, Norway, where SeaDream 1 will head along the Norwegian coastline to Oslo, the proud Norwegian Captial – and coincidentally where SeaDream’s European office is located.”
Health and Safety Protocols:
Travel Off Path has reached out to SeaDream Yacht Club for an update on their health protocols and will update this article soon as we hear back.
Scenic Luxury Cruises
Scenic Luxury Cruises has scheduled their reopening river cruise for September 15th, 2020
Scenic Luxury Cruises has scheduled a reopening 7 night sailing from Cambodia to Vietnam on September 15, 2020.
Health and Safety Protocols:
According to Scenic Luxury cruises “Scenic will ensure that we adhere to the highest of hygiene and cleaning protocol on all ships and all tours when operating. Thorough cleaning will be conducted regularly, and hand sanitizers are located throughout the ship to ensure the highest level of personal hygiene whilst on board.”
Silversea Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 5th, 2020.
According to the Silversea website, the first sailings is a 7 day Galapagos Islands Cruise from Baltra to San Cristobal.
View the launch dates of the entire Silversea fleet.
Health and Safety Protocols:
In an email to Travel Off Path, Communications Director, Matthew Scott said “Silversea always implements the most rigid sanitary protocols to ensure the highest possible hygiene standards on our ships, with the health and safety of our guests and crew as our top priority. The company is using the current idle time to evaluate additional measures to address physical distancing protocols and to ensure that all necessary precautions are in place to resume safe and healthy cruising when the time is right.“
Some of the enhancements Silversea is working on include:
Uniworld River Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for August 16th, 2020.
Uniworld stated “As a result of the current global travel restrictions, all Uniworld voyages have been suspended through July 31, 2020.”
According to the Uniworld River Cruises website, one of the first sailings will be a 15 day river cruise from Paris to Bordeaux.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Uniworld River Cruises has developed and announced extensive health and sanitation protocols in preparation for their relaunch.
Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 1st, 2020
According to the Viking Ocean website, one of the first sailings will be a 15 day cruise from Bergen, Norway to Bergen Switzerland.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Travel Off Path has reached out to Viking Ocean cruises for an update on their health and safety protocols and will update this article soon as we hear back.
Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises has scheduled their reopening cruise for September 29th, 2020
According to the Viking River Cruises website, one of the first sailings will be a 10 day cruise from Lisbon to Porto, Portugal on the Viking Osfrid.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Travel Off Path has reached out to Viking River Cruises for an update on their health and safety protocols and will update this article soon as we hear back.
Virgin Voyages has announced their first cruise will be on October 16th, 2020
“As of right now, our first sailing is planned for October 16th, 2020. We’re focused on being ready to get back on the open ocean with some exciting innovations focused on protecting the well-being of both our Sailors and our incredible Crew — which we’ll update you on soon,” stated the Virgin Voyages website.
According to the Virgin Voyages website, the first sailing will be a 5 night round trip cruise from Miami to the Dominican Republic on the Scarlet Lady.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Travel Off Path has reached out to Virgin Voyages for an update on their health and safety protocols and will update this article soon as we hear back. Read more about their inaugural sailing.
VIVA Cruises resumed operations on July 10th, 2020
The first cruise features was a 4 night round trip sailing on July 10th, 2020 from Frankfurt, Germany on the MS Treasures.
Health and Safety Protocols:
VIVA has announced the following for their cruising reopening
Windstar Cruises has announced their first cruise will be on September 9th, 2020.
“Wind Spirit will resume sailing in Tahiti with its first cruise departing on September 9th, 2020 and other yachts will follow later in 2020 and 2021,” stated the Windstar Cruises website.
According to the Windstar Cruises website, the first sailing will be an 8 day Tahiti cruise.
Health and Safety Protocols:
Windstar has launched an extensive Covid-19 prevention program including the ‘Windstar Wave' to help protect the health and safety of it's passengers.
Cruise Line Scheduled Reopening Dates:
We do our best to keep this article updated daily as reopening cruise schedules are constantly changing. Please let us know in the comments if you see an update Travel Off Path has missed. We appreciate the help.
See our complete list of Countries Reopening Their Borders For Tourism
New surveys show that tourists are weighing new factors when planning travel, such as how well the virus is being controlled in different localities.
Countries hard-hit by COVID, like those in some parts of Latin America and other regions, will need to take travellers' new concerns into account to build back tourism.
Brand strategies will need to account for travellers’ fears regarding the virus, touting hygiene and safety.
As lockdowns lift and the pandemic slows in many parts of the world, quarantine-weary countries have one question: When can tourists travel again – and where will they chose to go? The answer, like the COVID-19 crisis, will be complex, blending both fact and emotion.
For some countries, such as those in hard-hit parts of Latin America and other areas, it may also depend on an individual country’s ability to control the virus’ spread. Some countries have seen rapid rates of transmission and, in some cases, infections have spread from big cities to small towns. Where countries are planning to reopen to tourists, officials from the World Health Organization have urged countries to reconsider until infections are under control.
Of course, some countries have managed to contain the virus, but these countries will still face barriers to building back their tourism industries given tourists' new reluctance to travel.
As countries navigate their particular challenges, here are some factors to consider:
Understanding travellers’ new needs
A study by Bloom Consulting and D2-Analytics (Data from April 2020) assessed people’s potential behaviours for the coming year by proposing a range of different scenarios for travel. (While this poll was taken in the Spring, the virus continues to bring uncertainty to travellers and will until it is completely eradicated.)
In the first scenario, respondents were told the virus was controlled and has become a part of our lives. Although travel restrictions would not require quarantines when entering chosen destinations, 45% said they still wouldn’t be ready for a leisure trip.
In the second scenario, the virus was nearly eradicated, but a treatment had been developed. Despite access to the medication, 35% polled said they’d stay in.
In the third and last potential scenario, the virus was fully eradicated. In this case, there was no risk of infection from COVID-19 and no restrictions to navigate. Despite these facts, 15% of all tourists polled said they still would not leave their homes for a trip.
This question reveals a key travel barrier that did not widely exist in the pre-COVID-19 era: Fear. Some are afraid to be in contact with those possibly infected and, given the choice, would prefer to stay safe in their homes. In fact, 64% of those polled said fear was the main reason they wouldn’t travel in the coming 12 months.
As COVID-19 has brought new sensitivities, it has also changed travel preferences. Nearly half (46%) of all respondents who planned to travel for leisure purposes said they may choose a different destination from the original choice they made prior to the outbreak.
Nearly 39% polled said they may choose less crowded or different types of destinations, ones that have extensive hygiene programs (i.e. application of sanitary measures and initiatives monitoring public health). 8% surveyed said they wouldn’t travel unless to visit their families abroad. Still others said they'd wait for a treatment or vaccine.
Thus, the way governments have handled the crisis will play a large role in tourists’ decisions in choosing a destination. More than half of these travellers - 53% - said they’d switch their destination for one that had a good health system. Effective crisis management and low numbers of COVID-19 cases are crucial to these travellers’ decision-making.
Government management is key
Keeping these factors top of mind will be key to communicating the measures in place and developing a sense of safety in tourists in the aftermath of the health crisis. As far as we can see, this crisis won’t vanish in a short period of time. Its impact will cut deep for the long term. Until then, Destination Brands and Destination Marketing Organizations [DMOs] must develop tourism offers that are tailored to tourists’ new needs.
Leisure travel faces a new barrier that did not exist pre-COVID: Fear.
Given the significant impact of public governance perceptions, DMOs must work with governments to establish the fundamental elements that will secure a positive country reputation. This must be done in order to manage the current situation, prepare for the aftermath of the crisis, and anticipate future problems.
Here are some of the key strategies and recommendations that can guide hard-hit countries in Latin America, as well as any country facing the challenges of building back its tourism industry given the changing perceptions regarding target travel audiences:
Avoid price competition. According to the Bloom Consulting study, only 15% of respondents chose money when asked their main consideration when travelling for leisure purposes. Less crowded destinations and improved healthcare systems are tourists’ main concerns.
As a result, previous tourism strategies must be revisited as they may have become temporarily obsolete, especially in low-cost or mass touristic destinations that rely the most on the US market (i.e. Mexico and Caribbean nations, such as the Dominican Republic). Such areas might need to continue to focus on domestic tourism first and shift attentions to traditional US or Canadian markets in later seasons.
Redesign and redefine tourism. Tourists’ behaviours and preferences have changed. Tourists will be searching for new and less crowded destinations where they can worry less about COVID-19. In Latin American countries where cases are under control, make sure the brand strategy communicates that the destination is appealing and safe once restrictions lift. The product offer must be adjusted to tourists' new expectations and needs.
To this end, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched a "Safe Travels” global safety and hygiene stamp for destinations and their offers. The designation follows protocols backed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and is based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. Mexican destinations such as Quintana Roo and Yucatán are among the locales that have qualified.
Additionally, Uruguay, with comparably low numbers for the region, was selected for the EU's "safe countries" list of locales with low and declining infection rates. Once borders open, touting inclusion in such lists and the adoption of protocols and programs with third-party certifications can restore tourists’ confidence in destinations and speed the recovery of the industry when responsibly applied.
This is also an opportunity for smaller destinations to attract tourists, creating a more balanced flow of travellers to many destinations. Costa Rica, for instance, has won plaudits for its handling of the virus and while its cases recently began to spike, the country has long managed one of the lowest COVID-19 case fatality rates in the region. Should it continue to respond quickly and effectively, travellers could find Costa Rica an appealing option after travel restrictions are lifted in the long term.
Take health systems into account. Having a solid and reliable healthcare system will have an impact on brand reputation. According to Bloom Consulting and D2 Analytics research, 68% of respondents stated that this crisis is shaping their perceptions of countries.
In this study, countries with the best control of the virus (at the time the poll was taken this Spring), such as New Zealand or South Korea, were perceived most positively. In Latin America, countries like Cuba, with low case numbers at the time of polling, were seen in a more positive light than others with wider transmission. Those results give a sense for how perceptions could evolve with the outbreak, depending on governments’ handling of the virus.
DMOs must monitor and measure perceptions on government actions, activities and policies. They must assess what people value and how they perceive management measures such as lifting travel bans. These perceptions impact tourists' preferences when choosing a new place to visit.
The brand strategy must consider new types of data (such as infection rates in the immediate term) and a destination's ability to respond immediately to key changes.
Plan your crisis management structure. It is essential for DMOs to have a team or a plan in place that is ready to adapt, analyze and respond to a new normal, new scientific developments or any arising crises. The goal is to ensure a long-term, sustainable approach to show people the destination is prepared for any unforeseen events.
Moving forward, fear and uncertainty will be the central factors in a tourists’ decisions, regardless of the rate of transmission in a particular country. These concerns must be accounted for since countries unable to respond to new crises will face a tougher road in rebuilding their tourism sector.
Early in the pandemic, Latin America was mostly a spectator, but countries in Central and South America have been battling the pandemic since. The challenges countries face shift quickly and without warning. Countries, regardless of their transmission phase, must remain vigilant to ensure they can control the virus and their fates to rebuild the tourism sector that’s so important to their economies.
There's disagreement within the cruise industry about whether ships can sail profitably with fewer passengers.
Though it may not have been their intent, airlines have started competing on safety protocols. Delta and JetBlue have blocked out middle seats, while American Airlines announced that it would be walking back its limit on passenger capacity.
United Airlines never had such a limit in the first place—CEO Scott Kirby calling blocked seats a PR move—although the brand arguably engaged in a publicity motivated move of its own, announcing a partnership with Clorox to incorporate the cleaning brand’s logo products into the traveling experience. Nearly all airlines now require masks for guests, even without the support of a federal law mandating them.
In the cruise industry, the conversation about safety is beginning to drift toward what passenger capacity will be when ships are allowed to resume sailing. Unlike airlines, which were never grounded, cruise lines haven’t been able to welcome guests since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instituted a No Sail Order in March.
Virgin Voyages—which hasn’t even held its first cruise yet—was among the first brands to lay out its Covid-19 protocols in June, saying it would limit passenger capacity but declining to share exact figures.
Although the company won’t be sailing until at least October, Carnival’s Aida brand, which caters to European audiences and is headquartered in Germany, is expected to set sail the first week of August. Guests will be required to stay 1.5 meters apart (about 5 feet) and will only have to wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and not outdoors or in dining rooms.
Passenger capacity will be “adjusted.”
“We’re going to start slow,” said Arnold Donald, Carnival’s CEO and president, during the brand’s earnings call last week. “Initially, we’ll probably start at less than 50% occupancy as we work out the details.”
The company noted that a ship’s break-even point is somewhere between 30% and 50% capacity. Even with less than half of its normal passenger count, Carnival could still make a “significant” amount of money, according to Donald.
“That gives them a lot of room to fine-tune the occupancy numbers to what may be acceptable to regulators,” said Paul Golding, an analyst at investment firm Macquarie.
A Carnival spokesperson said no specific passenger limits have been set yet, and that capacity concerns had not been part of Carnival’s discussions with the CDC.
Carnival’s optimism isn’t shared by the entire industry. Last week, Frank Del Rio, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, told The Financial Times that lowered capacity would be a “severe blow” to the business. Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain, in a talk with travel advisers, said his cruise line would reduce capacity to some degree. The two brands have partnered to lead a health and safety panel for the industry, with findings and recommendations to come.
“I don’t see how having fewer people on the ship really makes that much of a difference,” said Bob Levinson, CEO of CruiseCompete, a booking site that specializes in the cruise industry. “You can spread out dining times, you can spread out tables, but at the end of the day, I think it’ll be driven by negotiations with the CDC.”
Levinson believes concerns about capacity will only last for a short period of time, with a vaccine potentially coming in the new year. Realistically, most cruise lines would like to run at some capacity during the holiday season with time to ramp up before Spring Break.
“By the time we get rolling, we won’t be in the situation we’re in today,” he said. “Demand isn’t the issue, it’s making the CDC happy.”
On Thursday, the CDC extended its No Sail Order, which had been set to expire on Friday, until Sept. 30. (The cruise industry’s trade group, Cruise Lines International Association, had already extended its voluntary suspension of service until Sept. 15 back in June. Carnival set its own return even further down the road, at Sept. 30.) The CDC also has the regulatory authority to make masks mandatory or to set limits on capacity.
A spokesperson for Carnival said consumers are expecting the company to take care of safety concerns: “Our customers are extremely loyal cruisers, and they expect us to implement protocol on our ships that will help keep them safe and healthy, just as we have done in the past.”
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.