Cruise State of The Industry: Rebounding and Ready for Incentives

Seatrade Cruise Global, meeting at the Miami Beach Convention Center, reflects an industry moving forward.

After being devastated by the pandemic, the cruise industry is in a strong recovery phase. And, according to industry experts, cruises have  rebounded as one of the safest choices for incentive travel.

After a two-year pause, the annual Seatrade Cruise Global, the world’s largest conference for cruise industry professionals, took place in late April at the Miami Beach Convention Center, drawing representatives from 80+ cruise line brands and 500+ exhibitors from around the world. The vibe was decidedly upbeat during the 4-day conference, with major cruise lines announcing new ships, new travel partnerships, and new ports of call.

Focusing on an overall theme of resilience, presenters and panelists at the opening session, State of the Global Cruise Industry, spoke about the cruising rebound and industry trends—with many relevant takeaways for meeting and incentive planners. Among their key points:

•Pierfrancesco Vago, global chair of CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) and executive chairman for MSC Cruises, said 88 percent of CLIA members have resumed service and 7.5 million passengers have sailed on a cruise since mid-2020. By the end of July, 95 percent of CLIA ships will be in operation and nearly 100 percent of CLIA ocean-going capacity is projected to sail by August 2022. All told, in 2022 there are 280 ships expected to sail across 100 countries and regions.

•Kelly Craighead, CLIA president & CEO, said passenger volume is expected to surpass 2019 levels by the end of 2023, with passenger volumes projected to recover 12 percent above pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2026.

• Concerning health and safety, Vago said that “cruise lines sailed with the highest level of COVID mitigation in the world.”  A multilayered approach to testing and vaccination, he noted, reduced Covid infections onboard ships to a fraction of what occurred on shore during the height of the pandemic.

• Both Vago and Craighead emphasized the importance of sustainability as a major cruise industry trend. This includes such measures as reducing carbon emissions, using new fuels and advanced wastewater systems, eliminating single use plastic, and using shoreside electricity.

• Craighead said that by 2035 all ships calling at ports where onshore power is available will be equipped to plug in, allowing engines to be switched off and thus eliminating carbon emissions while at port. As well, CLIA member lines have committed to pursuing net-zero carbon cruising by 2050. 

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