The Foreign Office’s “senseless” new travel advice against all cruising is “consistent with the appalling way the travel industry has been treated by government”.
That was the damning verdict of agency boss Miles Morgan during a TTG Agent Matters panel assessing the fallout from yesterday’s FCO announcement, which came as a shock for the trade and another unwelcome blow for the embattled cruise sector.
Citing medical advice from Public Health England, the announcement on Thursday (10 July) advised “against cruise ship travel at this time”.
Morgan said the move was “reminiscent” of June’s derided quarantine announcement. “We all said that was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted – and this is exactly the same thing again.
“Why now? And what’s the point when most cruise lines aren’t even operating? To come out with something as mad as this with no sense to it whatsoever – I think it’s crazy.”
Mundy Cruising managing director Edwina Lonsdale said the timing was “puzzling”.
“It’s not as if cruise lines are clamouring to get back out there,” she said. “We have a really responsible industry, collaborating and addressing the issues in a way we haven’t seen any other sector do – or indeed the government.”
Cruise1st managing director Dale Sourbutts said the lack of clarity in the FCO’s update had prompted calls from concerned customers due to sail in November and December.
“Clarity is absolutely key to this,” he said. “If we in the industry don’t know the ins and outs, how are consumers supposed to [know]?”
Morgan said how the FCO would lift the advice was his “biggest concern”.
“You’ve got ships taking 5,000 passengers and others taking a few hundred – will they lift it by sector, or by size of ship? The whole thing shows a complete lack of understanding of the cruise industry.”
Sourbutts called on lines to produce “short, sharp” information videos to help agents promote new health and safety policies and ease concerns from the new-to-cruise market.
“We need to get people rethinking about cruise,” he said. “New customers will be the challenge.”
Morgan said he hoped efforts in Europe to restart river cruising would “prove the point it is safe”, adding supportive onboard videos and social media posts would help the industry’s plight.
Lonsdale urged the industry to grab the opportunity to change the story and focus so it is “not about cruise being ‘banned’ but what the lines are doing and how seriously they’re taking health and safety”.