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About a year ago, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) was working with local and national governments around the world, leading health authorities and other partners in the cruise community to coordinate efforts during the suspension of cruise operations worldwide. 

At that time, as today, the priority for the entire cruise community was the health and safety of passengers, crew and the populations of the places being visited. At the time, the vast majority of CLIA’s 270+ member cruise ships were not affected by the virus, mainly due to the aggressive measures that were taken. These measures were based on the recommendations of global health authorities, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Unfortunately, following the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic in mid-March, the various cruise lines took the decision to voluntarily suspend global operations. This made the cruise industry one of the first sectors to do so.

This had a strong economic impact worldwide. We should not forget that this is an industry that affects a wide number of sectors such as hospitality, tourism and transport. To put it in figures, we are talking about 1.17 million jobs worldwide and up to 150 billion dollars in global economic activity per year. 

After long months of uncertainty due to the global health situation, cruise lines have started to announce their first voyages, with a very positive response from users. This resumption of activity is accompanied by protocols and measures agreed by the various authorities. 

With the aim of protecting passengers, crew and destinations as much as possible, CLIA worked under the guidance of health and industry experts and included new protocols including COVID-19 testing for everyone on board, face mask use, safety distance, mask use, air management and ventilation strategies, as well as improved medical facilities. During the second half of 2020, voyages with strict on-board health measures have already taken place, demonstrating the effectiveness of these protocols.

According to Kelly Craighead, President and CEO of CLIA, the past eight months have seen the continued controlled resumption of cruising in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, with almost 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets. These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. In addition, additional voyages are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and during the summer months. Based on analysis, the small fraction of reported COVID cases (less than 50 according to public reports) is dramatically lower than the rate that can be found on land or by any other method of transport.

On this premise, and in parallel to the shipping lines’ return to business announcements, CLIA continues to officially request the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allow the gradual resumption of cruise ship operations from US ports in July. This resumption of cruising, within the US travel industry, will provide a major boost to the US economy. In principle, according to CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey, the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) that currently does not allow cruising in this market will remain in place until 1 November.

On the other hand, Craighead stresses the importance of accelerating vaccine deployment as a game changer in the provision of health and wellness, especially in the United States. 

In the midst of this period of inflection that will hopefully lead to stability in the sector, cruise enthusiasts have had a very positive response to the return of activity and the return to cruising. In the case of luxury cruises in particular, records are being set for long-term cruise bookings. Oceania Cruises’ 180-day round-the-world cruise sold out a record 684 tickets in 24 hours. Bob Binder, the company’s president and CEO commented, “The response to this epic voyage clearly illustrates the enthusiasm travellers have for immersive and memorable travel experiences.

Especially in this uncertain environment, we at IST wanted to support the cruise industry by facilitating our customers and developing new and more advanced services to enable them to be as efficient as possible. Our main objective is to improve the productivity of online sales, offering technological solutions that connect to more than 95% of the offer of the cruise market worldwide. 

It is necessary to provide security and confidence to the user, optimising the sales process, a task in which travel agents and the technology offered by IST, a technological partner of reference in the distribution and sale of cruises online, are particularly important.

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