Cruise industry catches up after the pandemic

The Seatrade Cruise Global conference, the cruise industry’s premier global event, kicks off Monday at the Miami Beach Convention Center (USA) with participants and exhibitors from 140 countries and in an optimistic environment for the first time since the 2020 pandemic broke out.

The centerpiece of the four-day conference is the so-called “State of the Industry,” a panel on Tuesday, April 26, to outline the current state of the industry and unveil the prospects for the future, but the program is wide and varied.

Seatrade Cruise Global is set to be the first face-to-face update on a sector of global importance, which in 2019, before the pandemic debacle, employed 1.2 million people and contributed $155 billion to the world economy.

The conference will also serve to discuss lessons learned during the “crossing of the desert,” particularly in the area of health security, and learn about technological and other innovations that have emerged in recent years. The “State of the Industry” speakers will be Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) President and CEO Kelly Craighead, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty, and MSC Cruise Division CEO Pierfrancesco Vago.

CLIA, which encompasses the vast majority of companies that operate transoceanic cruises, estimates that by the end of July or early August 2022, 100 out of 100 of its members will have managed to normalize their activity.

Coping with the impact of the pandemic

The cruise sector was one of the hardest hit by the movement restrictions that the covid-19 pandemic forced worldwide, as clearly shown by the 2020 figures published by CLIA, which has not yet released those for 2021.

The number of passengers embarked worldwide that year was 5.8 million, 81% less than in 2019, jobs supported by the sector totaled 576,000 (-51%) and the contribution of cruises to the world economy was $63.4 billion (-59%).

Significantly, the first panel of the conference will be dedicated to “resilience”, a key word at this event, the second to new developments in the map of global cruise destinations and the third to new products and technology for cruise ports.

The conference includes a trade show with some 700 exhibitors, presenting their innovations in interior design, entertainment, environment and health, accommodation, information technology, ports and destinations, safety and security, equipment and shipbuilding.

But there are not only companies at this huge fair, but also governments, port authorities and tourism promotion institutions from countries, regions and even port-cities.

Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Spain, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Uruguay are among the countries institutionally represented at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The Spanish State Ports Public Organization will have a 418 square meter pavilion to show the offer of the ports of A Coruña, Alicante, Almería, Bahía de Algeciras, Bahía de Cádiz, Baleares, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cartagena, Ceuta, Ferrol, Huelva, Málaga, Melilla, Motril, Santander, Seville, Tarragona, Valencia and Vigo.

In addition, the Port Authorities of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife will also be present at the Cruises Atlantic Island stand, as well as a large group of local institutions and service companies. Among the many members of governments and public agencies that will attend this fair to promote their countries as tourist destinations are Verónica Kunze Neubauer, Chile’s Undersecretary of Tourism, and her counterpart from Uruguay, Remo Monzeglio.

The big news for the sector so far this year was the decision announced on March 30 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the total withdrawal of warnings to citizens about the risk of contracting covid-19 on board cruise ships.

In 2020, the CDC even issued an order banning cruise ships departing from U.S. ports, which was in force for 15 months and had a huge impact on the Caribbean and Latin American countries and resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the companies.

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