Paris | Contamination and deaths on board, ship wandering from port to port: in spite of the pandemic that has sealed his image and suspended all activity, the area of the cruise is estimated to hit but not sunk and wants to recapture its customer base with new health standards.
For the year 2020, the sector was counting on $ 32 million passengers worldwide.
A goal rendered null and void by the epidemic of Covid-19 leaving on the flank of an industry generating over 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs, including among others the shipbuilding industry.
After a health crisis of this magnitude, “there is no activity in the tourism may not return to the identical, the cruise is no exception,” says AFP Erminio Eschena, president of Clia France, the association of the major shipowners.
Especially that the image of the cruise was devastated: “it was this +ship of anguish+ that was the Diamond Princess, a species of boat of the plagued version 21st century”, says Paul Tourret, director of the higher Institute of maritime economy (Isemar).
With almost 4,000 people on board, the Diamond Princess has remained in quarantine for the whole month of February off the coast of Japan, the number of cases of coronavirus peak level of 700 to a dozen deaths have been confirmed. The images of other ships “contaminated” – Zaandam, Coral Princess, Costa Magica – have also been around the world.
“The media in general have focused, quite emphatically at times, the cruise. This has been done with a little too much eagerness, there has been a need at any given time to illustrate the coronavirus, the cruises were used to this,” judge Erminio Eschena.
At present, the main challenge companies – at a complete standstill until at least the beginning of August – is to give back the desire to jump on board.
“It takes a lot of work to convey a sense of security, developing innovations in terms of products and services: the demand for cruises will depend on what will be put in place,” stresses Giuliano Noci, professor of strategy at the business school of politecnico in Milan.
Just a “bad password” ?
A health protocol is being developed for the sector, and will be finalised by the end of June.
“All options are on the study to take into account the social distancing: consider an occupancy rate that would not be 100% on board or in the shuttle, a redesign of the flow of access and movement, the stop buffets to propose that the restoration of the table”, gives details of Clia.
“The attention is also focused on the monitoring the boarding, the evolution of the offer of entertainment, digital technologies. For excursions, we are working on circuits with a number of participants limited by the bus, themselves smaller,” adds Costa Croisères, brand of the world number one in the sector Carnival.
“This situation could encourage technological innovation”, as the reality virtual to replace the excursions, ” notes Mr. Noci.
But the recovery also depends on other sectors: without air traffic, it is impossible to route customers to the place of departure of their journey; with closed borders or quarantines, no stopovers on land. Some countries have also banned the cruises for a long period of time, such as the Seychelles until 2021.
“We will adopt a gradual approach according to the situation of each country. A first phase may possibly favor domestic routes, before expanding to neighbouring countries”, says Costa.
China – second largest market behind north America – should be the first to leave on a cruise: “the Chinese are plotted continuously, which significantly reduces the likelihood of contamination,” according to Giuliano Noci.
“We have new bookings for this fall and next winter. Holidaymakers know how to do things right,” judge for his part Erminio Eschena.
Remains to be seen whether the owners will take the hit: the giant Carnival, which had raised more than $ 6 billion in April, just to oust the flagship index of the London stock Exchange, after having lost two thirds of its value since the beginning of the year.
But for Paul Tourret, optimism still prevails: “The big companies are expecting a difficult year, but consider that it’s just a bad pass”.