Cruise Industry

Cruise passenger numbers in 2020 may sink to 2006 levels amid global shutdown

The UNWTO (World Tourism Organisation) has outlined the potential impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the global tourism sector, giving the first meaningful indication of the damage to the cruise industry.

While demand for future cruises remains high despite the pandemic, the voluntary suspension of all cruises globally means that 2020 will see historically low cruise passenger numbers.

The global suspension of cruises in 2020 will have huge temporary impact on passenger numbers for the year

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UNWTO expects international tourism to drop 60% to 80% this year, meaning that just 6 to 12-million passengers will have taken a cruise by the end of the year (the cruise industry’s overall passenger capacity for 2020 before the pandemic was estimated at 29.5 million).

The last time 12-million people went on a cruise in a year was in 2006, and back then it was a record high.

P&O Cruises’ new mega ship Iona was ready for delivery in March, but her maiden season has been cancelled due to the pandemic

If new cruise ships currently under construction are delivered as planned, the cruise industry will have a capacity of 32-million in 2021, but many cruise lines have already reported strong demand for 2021 and 2022 itineraries.

The ability of the cruise industry to get back to sea depends entirely on the appetite of cruise destinations for easing travel restrictions. Cruise seasons in Dubai and Cape Town were cancelled earlier this year due to local bans on cruise operations.

The United Nations agency for tourism reports that 100% of destinations worldwide still have COVID-19 related travel restrictions for international tourists in place, which includes the cruise lines.

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Out of all 217 destinations worldwide, 156 (72%) have placed a complete stop on international tourism according to the data collected as of April 27, 2020 (in others, international arrivals are subject to a quarantine period).

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili called for international governments to work together to coordinate the easing and lifting of restrictions in a timely and responsible manner, when it is deemed safe to do so.

“Tourism is a lifeline to millions, especially in the developing world,” said Pololikashvili. “Opening the world up to tourism again will save jobs, protect livelihoods and enable our sector to resume its vital role in driving sustainable development.”

The cruise industry in 2017 had a global economic impact of US $126-billion, directly employing more than 1-million people and contributing US $3.1-billion in direct expenditure to the economies of 35 destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

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