The global cruise industry has weathered a battering over the past few months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Almost all cruise companies, whether it be ocean, river or expedition, have halted operation until at least late June due to mandates abroad and national domestic and international travel bans and border closures. But despite the current COVID-19 turmoil, the cruise market is likely to be the sector of the travel and tourism industry that will recover the fastest, predicts Michael Londregan, Managing Director of Virtuoso Asia Pacific.
Speaking with LATTE earlier this month, Londregan tipped more widely that when the tourism market does recover, it will not be spread evenly.
“I think that some segments of the markets will recover first and some last, and some quicker than others. But it will never be the way that it was,” he said.
“People are asking when is it going to return to normal but that’s actually the wrong question to pose. I believe the question is when are we going to have a new marketplace where we can effectively operate, not when is the old marketplace going to resume.”
Londregan forecast some brands and categories would suffer and be hurt by the ongoing pandemic, however, the cruise industry was likely to mount a concerted mission to regain trust and confidence.
“We should not underestimate the incredible energy that will be put in by that segment to mount a recovery. There is a lot of money invested in cruise infrastructure. It is fundamentally a very popular product and there is no doubt that they will be hurt.
“I think that we will see the sector mount a very strategic recovery together and I would not be surprised to see them coordinate one of the more organised recovery strategies, compared to the much more fragmented categories of our industry,” Londregan said.
He suggested other fields in the travel and tourism sphere made up of “many desperate individual players” will likely be unable to aggregate a recovery as well as the cruise segment.
“I think that the advantage that they are going to have, although they are starting off the back-blocks, is they’re going to be able to think about what they need to do collectively and do it quite powerfully.
“If there is a solution, I think they will find it first,” the Virtuoso APAC boss said.
Trusted travel advisors will be in vogue
Meanwhile, Londregan says luxury travel advisors are going to be in higher demand when the recovery does actually kick-in.
“When things are running well and the market is buoyant, sometimes we don’t really value the highest quality things. The gap isn’t so apparent. And the minute that there’s suddenly a crisis or a bit of a hiccup, suddenly expertise becomes really valued.”
“Definitely if you were out there and trying to navigate a fairly complicated refund on the trip that you’d gone and booked on your own, the call waits, different terms and conditions, you’d probably be wishing that you had an expert in your corner helping you.
Londregan continued: “There’s just no doubt that all of those hundreds and hundreds of hours that our members have spent on their client’s behalf, realigning their refunds, cancellations and postponements, all of those clients will really understand the benefit of having an expert working with you and nothing explains do-it-yourself like when you have a problem and you’re trying to solve it yourself.”
He told LATTE that once the crisis is over there will be an entirely new group of people that will seek the skills and knowledge of a travel professional to help them and be “in their corner”.
“Having a trusted travel advisor is definitely going to be more in vogue out of turmoil then it was going in for that nothing ever goes wrong, it all works perfectly market,” Londregan concluded.
Lead image: A flotilla of Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships