One theme has dominated many of the panels and conversations at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global conference, which kicked off Monday in Miami: resilience. And, if the packed conference rooms and trade show floor are any indication, businesses in and supporting the cruise industry have indeed been resilient.
“We have more speakers, more content and more conference themes this year than ever before,” said Andrew Williams, president, Maritime Group at informa Markets kicking off the State of the Global Cruise Industry keynote.
Collaboration Key to Resiliency
The conference got started on Monday with a “Lessons in Resiliency” session in which representatives from Royal Caribbean Group, the government of Barbados, Port Everglades, and Global Ports Holding Plc. talked about what it meant to be resilient from their different perspectives.
Unsurprisingly, all spoke about the importance of collaboration and coming together as key.
“For us to come back, we needed to do whatever we could to support the industry,” said Jonathan Daniels, chief executive and port director at Port Everglades.
For the port that means waiving fees so the lines could dock their ships there at a time they had no money coming in. For destinations, like Barbados, it meant allowing cruise lines to offload their crewmembers when no other country in the world would so they could get them home. For cruise lines themselves, it means collaborating on health and safety protocols.
As Daniels put it, it was a time when competitors became collaborators.
A Unified Community
Two years later and the result is a stronger, more unified, more resilient cruise community than ever before.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to see the relationships going away that we formed during the pandemic,” Daniels said. “We all had a common enemy… As far as surviving, as far as being resilient, as an industry from the lines themselves to the ports, the relationships are as strong as ever.”
It was a message Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA and other panel members reiterated at the State of the Industry keynote.
“This eco-system stayed with us through all of this,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, referring to the attendees at Seatrade who represent the breadth of the entire cruise industry community. “It was this eco-system of partnerships that got us all to the other side of this.”
Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp. & plc echoed Liberty. “It brought us all closer together… It’s been a challenging time but in a lot of ways the industry got stronger and is positioned really well for the future.”
“That is the silver lining of this pandemic,” Craighead said. “Our collaborations, our new stronger relationships with law makers at all levels in all regions… stronger relationships with the travel trade and our heightened engagement with every stakeholder that makes up the industry… Through our pandemic response, we showed what we’re capable of when we unite as a truly global community.”
Consumer Interest Bouncing Back
Consumer interest in cruising has also shown to be resilient. According to executives, passenger volume is expected to return to – or exceed – 2019 levels by the end of next year.
According to research conducted by CLIA, 63% of cruisers or potential cruisers indicated they are “very likely” or “likely” to cruise in the next two years. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents that have never cruised before said they are open to cruises, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Of those most likely to cruise, millennials are the most enthusiastic, with 87% saying they will take a cruise in the next few years, followed by Gen X at 85%.