Sessions explored trends in the future cruise market, new destinations and changing customer trends, but the issue of sustainability remained the hot topic of the day.
Stuart Leven, chair of Clia UK and Ireland and managing director and vice-president EMEA Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which recently announced an aim to eradicate single use plastic from its ships, agreed sustainability was an issue the cruise industry should be addressing now.
Asked by TTG if the wider industry should be doing more on the environmental side, he insisted: “As an industry we’re quite good at this sort of thing. We’re building LNG [liquefied natural gas] ships before there is even the infrastructure in some areas of the world to support LNG ships in certain ports.”
Leven added: “In Nordic markets they’re asking questions about it. It isn’t quite the same in the UK market yet but it’s coming. We need to take the lead with our suppliers. It’s about saying to them ‘we can’t be using this in several years time’, and making sure that we’re taking steps on this now”.
In a later panel session, Chris Hackney, managing director of Marella Cruises, insisted: “[Sustainability] is key to us and it’s only going to get more of a profile in the coming years.”
Elsewhere, Clare Jenkinson, senior destinations and sustainability manager, Abta, pointed out that animal welfare was also a huge issue. “It’s how you view animals while on shore experiences, with things like dolphin swimming. There are also considerations of how cruises benefit local communities,” she said.
“There are examples of cruise lines looking at certifying shore excursions against a wide range of criteria. And there are plenty of examples of other things cruise lines are doing already – Intrepid has already banned all single-use plastic on its cruises. And Noble Caledonia runs beach cleans with local communities.”
Despite such moves, travel agent Phil Nuttall, managing director of The Travel Village Group, acknowledged that sustainability was not yet an issue being raised by customers. “It’s not a question we get asked but I think it’s a really valid point,” he said.
“Our marketing will definitely come off the back of [sustainability] announcements made by the cruise lines. Even simple things like banning plastic straws is a great first step.”