Cruise sector bodies have called on the UK government to provide “concrete steps” towards restarting ocean cruising during the wave period.
In a joint letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the UK Chamber of Shipping and Clia stressed the economic importance of the cruise industry and its reliance upon the Christmas and turn-of-year period to secure revenue and customer confidence for the year ahead.
The associations – which worked with government to produce a restart framework document in October – said there was an “urgent need to create a pathway to restart the industry" as a means to "support long-term productivity and growth in the UK”.
“Acting now is absolutely crucial, as this is the time of year when marketing campaigns are being designed for bookings in the key wave period,” the letter said. “Updating FCDO travel advice to remove specific advice against cruise is crucial to ensuring passengers can book with confidence and for the industry to support and create jobs.
“Cruise is a key industry for the UK, generating £10 billion every year for the UK economy and supporting over 88,000 jobs. We believe now is the right time to begin preparations for a restart so that it can take place efficiently and safely, with the priority of protecting and creating a significant number of jobs in the UK. We welcome government action, such as the extension of the furlough scheme, but for cruise, this only goes so far.
“We need concrete steps to be taken in order to proactively plan for a restart of the sector, primarily so that we are able to begin take bookings for 2021 – the majority of our annual bookings (35%) are made during the critical December-January wave period.”
The Chamber of Shipping and Clia said a pathway to restarting “must be developed urgently” between government and the cruise sector working in collaboration.
“Rescinding FCDO travel advice specific to cruise now will transform consumer confidence for sailing. This would have no practical impact on cruise activity in the short term as it takes at least 12 weeks for cruise lines to restart operations,” the letter said.
Clia UK and Ireland director Andy Harmer said that “while government understands the importance of getting the industry sailing again”, he believed ministers “must now set a timeline” for ocean cruising’s return.
“For several months, the industry has worked collaboratively with government to agree health protocols that go beyond any other travel sector operating today,” added Harmer.
“As we head into 2021, our hope is that the government will recognise our uncompromising commitment to public health and act now to help protect the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on a successful UK cruise industry.”