Pre-Brexit uncertainty could see the cruise sector experiencing a “second wave booking period" after the UK leaves the EU, Azamara Club Cruises boss Larry Pimentel has predicted.
Pimentel, the line’s president and chief executive, said he believed it was “likely” the industry would not see its traditional sales spikes throughout January, February and March ahead of March 29 – the UK’s official exit date.
“There could be a situation where it’s steady as she goes, you don’t have a great spike, but not a horrendous season and then all of a sudden, after [March 29], we see light at the end of the tunnel and get a second jump which comes later in the year,” he said.
Richard Twynam, Azamara’s managing director UK, Ireland and EMEA, likened the potential situation to the softening in demand for Black Sea cruises seen by the industry in 2015, due to geopolitical strife in Ukraine and Turkey.
“We moved capacity and it was just a longer, flatter wave,” he said.
However, the pair revealed that despite Brexit uncertainty and intense media coverage surrounding Theresa May’s Commons defeat of her EU withdrawal agreement on Tuesday (January 15), Azamara enjoyed its "biggest booking day on record" in the UK.
Pimentel also warned fellow cruise lines about “creating a fear cycle” in focusing on Brexit in marketing and advertising to consumers.
“It is a big issue and some lines have decided it might be worse and have decided to grab on to that and try to do something – some have been rate-orientated,” he explained.
“I think it’s too early in the ball game to throw in the towel and [act] like the worst has happened… we ought to be realistic with it. In five or 10 years from now is the impact of Brexit going to be forever-lasting? I don’t believe that to be the case.”
Assessing the influence of Brexit on the cruise sector, Pimentel said the industry had seen a “much more significant” impact after the Caribbean hurricanes of 2017.
“They were the worst hurricanes in years in the Caribbean, but the industry still managed to have its best year – go figure. From an industry point of view, that was much more significant than Brexit… we weathered the storm.”