MSC Cruises’ UK chief Antonio Paradiso has said this summer’s domestic "seacation" season has "saved the cruise industry" by helping lines build back consumer confidence and attract new customers.
Paradiso, speaking at the 2021 ITT Conference onboard MSC Virtuosa on Sunday (12 September), described the past 18 months as a "real, real challenge" for the sector.
"Week after week we realised the threat was becoming more and more of an issue for our cruise members.
"It was very sad. Since then it’s been a real challenge. Words like refunds and future cruise credits (FCCs) became the new normal. It’s been challenging, but we are the travel industry and we never give up. When the game gets tough the tough get going."
On 20 May, MSC Virtuosa became the first ship to return to domestic sailing, which, according to Paradiso, gave the industry the opportunity to "rediscover our own territory".
"These UK staycations have saved the industry. It has given the opportunity to so many agents to start selling and collecting cash after months of refunds, cancellations and FCCs," he added. "We have never worked so hard to get the cruise industry back on its feet."
Paradiso said 50% of the line’s customers who booked in the four months following MSC’s return had never cruised before.
"We used to rely on repeat passengers," he continued, "but having ships operating in the UK became a good alternative to land based holidays and gave us the opportunity to attract a new audience.
"The most important thing is that the trade community is back. We still have a long way to go, but if we survived these past 18 months, nothing will stop us. Have strength, have hope, have faith. We will beat this."