The cruise industry is looking ahead to the future following a pandemic that has had devastating effects and that is taking longer to recover from than expected. The recent lifting of the health warning in the United States is preparing the sector for a promising 2022 season.
Following a bleak 2020, the summer of 2021 marked the relaunch of a cruise industry that had been booming before the pandemic hit, with the generation of more than 154 billion dollars that year and transporting 29.7 million passengers in 2019.
However, despite all the health and safety measures in place, the sector was hampered by the unpredictability of the virus, which forced the cancellation of routes and lead to a certain degree of reluctance among cruise ship tourists.
So, while 2021 involved a 96% year-on-year increase in passengers for the cruise ship sector, reaching 13.9 million, it was still far from the pre-pandemic figures of 2019, involving 29.7 million passengers worldwide.
The CDC lifts restrictions
The situation is finally set to change after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its health warning for cruise travel. This measure is a huge relief for the industry, which is discriminated against by hotels and airlines that operated under much more lax restrictions.
The CDC has been gradually lifting cruise restrictions over the last few months given the declining rate of infection. This latest decision recognises the effectiveness of the measures applied by the sector to minimise risks in cruise travel, according to the statement made by the Cruise Lines International Association.
However, this does not mean that safety measures are being abandoned altogether. CDC’s voluntary guidance for cruise operators on COVID-19 prevention remains in place, and the agency continues to maintain a list of the risk levels of all cruises operating in the United States assessing their risk level, but where these will now only serve as guidelines for potential passengers.
Forecasts 2022: Cruise ships given a new lease of life
The 2022 season is looking promising for the sector. New cruise ships were built during the pandemic that are better equipped than ever and ready to provide a close to a modern boutique hotel experience as possible. And the industry wants to move away from its traditional image in order to attract a younger market and thus become more resilient in the future.
This is especially so due to surveys showing a much greater willingness for young generations to travel while the effects of the pandemic still remain. There is also increasing interest from young adults in cruise travel, with increased demands for information from cruise suppliers about COVID-19 initiatives.
All of this has led to a sector that is prepared and more willing than ever to offer the best onboard experience following a period of restrictions that hampered its growth.