Royal Caribbean Group boss Richard Fain has said he’s never felt more optimistic of a "realistic path forward" for a resumption of US cruising by mid-July, and believes agents have a key role to play too.
Group chair and chief executive Fain said the pace of progress on a restart had accelerated in recent weeks, and that the mood in the US was changing to towards renewed hope of opening up society again.
"You all know about the changes in the science, the vaccines, the testing and contact tracing – they’re all dramatically improved," said Fain in his latest video address the trade.
"That improvement has driven a fresh look at the state of affairs. Add in the arrangements we’re making with the local communities to deal with an incident if it occurs, and you have a dramatically improved situation."
Fain said the resumption of cruise operations around the world had given the sector a huge boost. "The other important change is that we now have data from operations around the world," said Fain.
"More than 400,000 people have taken cruises. That successful experience has not only given us comfort about the safety of cruising, it’s given us data to discuss with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health authorities. Based on that data, more than 30 countries have already granted permission for cruising, and we are optimistic the CDC will too."
Fain said the industry was engaged in "constructive dialogue" with the CDC. "We’re pleased the science and the data have advanced so far in just a few months," he said.
"The CDC has publicly stated this could enable cruising to restart as early as mid-July. We agree with that assessment, and we are more optimistic than ever that a realistic path forward can be achieved in that timeframe."
This, said Fain, could create the conditions for a summer season in Alaska, and elsewhere, although he cautioned against pre-judging any decisions by the CDC.
"Nevertheless, the science today is clear – our willingness to do what it takes to protect our guests, our crew and the communities we serve is strong," he said. "And the new [White House] leadership seems ready to have the kind of dialogue that could lead to a constructive outcome."
Fain said the trade had also done its bit by contributing its voice to the many small businesses affected by the Covid crisis. He said agents could play a vital role getting the message by letting clients know cruising was restarting – and by advocating for Covid responsibility.
"The pandemic is not over," he said. "As eager as we all are to move on, we can’t let our guard down. Improvement has slowed, and is in danger of getting worse if we get complacent.
"Variants are a real threat. We can overcome that threat, but each of us needs to be part of the solution – getting vaccinated, wearing our masks, etc.
"In sum, things are decidedly looking up. Our dialogue with the CDC has improved significantly, and the data we have obtained from sailings abroad is driving increased confidence."