The UK cruise sector has welcomed the government’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England, with a source telling TTG they expected the industry to be represented on the new Global Travel Taskforce.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (22 February) a “newly reconstructed” taskforce would be launched to produce a report by 12 April into how international travel should be restarted.
Johnson told MPs that as part of government’s four-step easing strategy, overseas travel would be allowed “no earlier” than 17 May.
Reacting to the news, Clia and the UK Chamber of Shipping said in a joint statement they would “engage with government” as part of the new taskforce to work towards “achieving a safe restart for cruise at home and abroad in the coming months”.
“The health and safety of our passengers will remain our priority and the cruise industry has over the past year been working with government on a detailed set of protocols to allow cruising to resume in a safe way,” the associations said.
A source close to cruise industry discussions with the government told TTG: “We expect the cruise sector to be represented at the new taskforce and to feed into the report being led by the Department for Transport.”
In a statement released after Monday night’s Downing Street briefing, Carnival UK president Simon Palethorpe thanked guests and crew for their support during its pause in operations.
“Our team has been working diligently to develop a comprehensive framework of protocols to protect the health and wellbeing of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” he said.
“As more clarity is provided on likely dates for travel and tourism to return we will publish updates on our return to service and the experience onboard.”
Palethorpe added that the cruise sector was “a multi-billion pound industry” and both directly and indirectly provided thousands of jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
“The pause in operations has created huge challenges for businesses and individuals, and I am proud that when the time is right we will once again be able to support our partners as we move forward together.”
Phil Nuttall, chief executive of The Travel Village Group, told TTG he welcomed the government’s “positive approach” in outlining a roadmap for holidays this summer, adding how the potential easing of all social restrictions by 21 June “opens the door for British Isles cruising from August”.
“One of the big questions people are asking is ‘what is the onboard experience going to be like?’ and if we take the prime minister’s comments that by late summer we can go about our daily lives, then this is the perfect opportunity to carry on cruising,” he added.
Nuttall said he believed British Isles itineraries would help “bring much needed financial support” to the cruise sector and the destinations they would be calling at.
“I do hope this comes to fruition, and if it does I can’t wait to see what the itineraries will be because people will not have to go ashore in a bubble either. It’s actually quite an exciting prospect.
“Can you imagine a day’s scenic cruising around the inlets of the Scottish Highlands whale, dolphin and seal watching? Just leisurely cruising at a snail’s pace? I hope we can be creative and make this happen, especially as some of the newer ships are much more environmentally friendly.”
Cruise Circle managing director Jason Daniels told TTG that while he believed it was “too early to properly gauge customer reaction” he felt Monday’s announcement allowed the industry and its clients to be “cautiously optimistic”.
“Although at this stage all we’ve been given is a random date in May, the work really starts from now,” he said.
“The cruise industry is a much more complicated proposition than that of land-based holidays, with so much needed to come together for a ship to set sail with paying passengers. We also need to be conscious that the eyes of the world will be on us, we must get it right, first time and at the right time.”