Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has weighed in on the debate around COVID-19 lockdowns, referring to the measures as “not a viable long-term practice in a free society”.
Fain made the remarks speaking from Greece ahead of this week’s christening of Silversea Cruises’ ninth ultra-luxury ship, Silver Moon. He said that while lockdowns do have a time and a place, they are only a “stopgap measure”.
In his latest industry update to travel advisors, Fain also highlighted three specific learnings observed over the past 17 months following the COVID cruise pause.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat what our world, our industry and our company, and our people have been through during this horrible pandemic. It’s been horrific,” he said.
The first learning Fain addressed was that people are the “key to success.”
“This has never been more true than during the past year and a half. The way our people responded to the crisis has been extraordinary. I can’t begin to express my appreciation for their effort, their sacrifices and their passion. They worked hard, but more importantly, they worked smart.”
“Whether it was developing new health and safety protocols, finding ways to support our crew, retrofitting ships with new air filters, remodel medical centres. Whatever it was, our people stepped up time and time again to turn what if into why not, and then they did it,” Fain remarked from aboard Silver Moon.
The cruise boss also emphasised the key role partners play, including travel advisors.
“For many of our guests, you’ve been the closest, most trusted source of information about when we would restart sailing and what vacations would look like when we did. The reassurances that you provided that we will continue to deliver fantastic, unforgettable vacation experiences were essential.”
The importance of preparation was Fain’s second learning mentioned.
“We entered the pandemic with a strong safety culture, and the resources we needed to get us through.”
“We were realistic about what might be, but we would not paralyzed by it. As a result, we always gave ourselves a runway to take any necessary action. And that approach proved very successful. At the beginning, we could have prepared for the worst and ignored the likely, but finding that balance, put us in a strong position that we’re in today.”
Fain said his third learning was that ambitious goals were critical.
“There were plenty of times when I felt like I should just get into bed, assume the fetal position and set the electric blanket to 10,” he said, as the pandemic created chaos worldwide.
“From the beginning, we set a very ambitious goal. We wanted to be not only just as safe other places, we wanted to be safer. We established the goal of being safer on board a ship than on Main Street.
“Many felt that there was an unattainable goal. Some called it naive or unrealistic.
“Cruising, remember, at the beginning was often portrayed as the poster child of a risky environment. But we all knew, and you all knew, using science and initiative, we could turn those very characteristics that people were citing as risks into the attributes that make cruising safer,” Fain said.
He said collaboration with scientific experts, the Healthy Sail Panel, governments around the world, other cruise lines and the CDC “demonstrated that we could achieve much more together than any of us could have separately”.
“I believe that the results are an exemplar to others, both in the field of health and in industry. We’ve shown that an ambitious goal can be achieved based on hard work, and an unemotional review of the facts and the science.”
“People can be protected without requiring them to be locked up. Now lockdowns are important tools for epidemiologist. Isolation is still the best way to prevent the spread of a disease, especially in the early stages, but it is only a stopgap measure. It’s not a viable long-term practice in a free society.”
“The protocols we’ve developed for cruise ships prove there is another way that people can be allowed to carry on their lives without causing outbreaks.”
Fain said dozens of Royal Caribbean Group ships back in operation carrying hundreds of thousands of guests every month, and admitted there are a “few cases” of COVID on board, but they are “handled smoothly, without disruption”.
“That’s the goal. To be better than this on land, and science has provided us a path that allows people to carry on their lives while dealing simply with a few number of cases.”
“We’re proud of our model. And we believe that the model is very useful one, that can be used as an exemplar in other situations,” he noted.
View Fain’s full video here.
Royal Caribbean Group staff recogntion day
Meanwhile, in recognition of the dedicated work shown by all staff of the Royal Caribbean Group, Fain has declared next Friday a day off work as a “small gesture of thanks”.
“We have so much to be thankful for. During a challenging time int he world, we have remained strong, and now even our business is beginning to recover. You have all worked so hard to get us here, and the effort to restart our operations has been prodigious. We all deserve an extra day of rest. We have designated Friday, 6 August, as just such a day,” Fain said.