The coronavirus outbreak in China has greatly disrupted cruises operating in Asia and brings up the question of whether coronavirus and cruises correlate. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports that around 10 of its 272 member ships are currently in Asia, and six of the 10 have canceled their itineraries for now.
The only ship with confirmed cases of the virus is the Diamond Princess, which is expected to remain under quarantine in Japan until at least February 19. So far, 175 cases of the virus have been confirmed among the more than 3,000 people onboard. How is coronavirus and cruises, specifically cruise meetings, related if there is a relationship at all?
“We have not had any cancelations or serious concerns from planners who have booked incentive programs in the western hemisphere,” said Joyce Landry, CEO of Landry & Kling, specialists in business charters and cruises, when asked about coronavirus and cruises, specifically meetings at sea. “The programs that we currently have in Asia are with Asian customers, and they are moving forward with their cruises in Korea and Japan for 2020 and 2021.”
Around 10 percent of cruise ships worldwide were scheduled to be deployed to Asia this year, according to CLIA, whose member cruise companies represent about 90 percent of capacity worldwide. This compares to 32 percent deployed to the Caribbean and 28 percent operating in Europe and the Mediterranean. Last week, CLIA issued new guidelines related to coronavirus, expanding restrictions on who can board any of its members’ ships.
Landry does not foresee at this point a major upheaval ahead for cruise-based meetings and incentives. “In general, the corporate traveler is a more sophisticated traveler than the general consumer, and they are going to weigh the risks and not rush to make a decision based on the media,” she said. “A few clients have been inquiring about the health procedures on board ship, and they feel comfortable when we explain that cruise ships have significantly more control over their environment than any other form of travel, that they have specific policies, trained personnel and detailed preparations for disinfection and control of outbreaks.”
Cruise ships are spotlighted whenever there is an outbreak, according to Landry, who co-founded Landry & Kling more than 35 years ago. “Cruise ships are singled out because they are the only mode of transportation that is required to report. We are keeping a close eye on the threat, of course, and advising our clients accordingly. For now, it’s business as usual.”
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