TORONTO — It’s easy enough to find the downsides of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the travel industry. But after so many months, cruise executives taking part in yesterday’s President’s Panel, ‘Ready, Set, SAIL’, at Ensemble Travel’s ONEnsemble virtual conference also paid testament to a popular adage these days: ’Never waste a crisis.’
Asked if there are any positives amid the pandemic, Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha said, “I’m not sure that any good can come out of a pandemic. But it has pushed us to become a much leaner company, and the cost savings will benefit us in the long term.”
Antorcha took over the top spot at Holland America in July 2020 after the departure of Orlando Ashford.
Jason Montague, President, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, said his optimism is fuelled by all the pent-up demand for cruising. “Our guests are really longing to travel,” he said.
At the end of September 2020 RSSC opened the books on its 2023 World Cruise and saw record sales. “It’s now 90% sold,” said Montague.
RSSC’s 2022-2023 season has also seen record numbers. One record booking day was up 40%. He advises travel agents to capitalize on the momentum for future trips as we head into winter. Positive developments on the vaccine front from major pharmaceutical companies don’t hurt either. “It’s the perfect time to be talking to clients about cruise bookings,” said Montague.
Gary Murphy, co-owner and Sr. VP Sales for AmaWaterways, was also on the ONEnsemble Presidents’ Panel. This past summer AmaWaterways restarted limited operations in Europe with charter cruises. For travellers who can’t said with the river cruise company yet, outreach has been key, says Murphy.
“We’ve reached more than 35,000 travellers since July,” with AmaWaterways marketing initiatives, said Murphy. “Consumers, clients are waiting to book. It’s important to stay engaged with your clients. And when life returns to normal, let’s go out and get that business.” Better to entice clients to book travel when normal life returns, instead of seeing that disposable income go towards buying a new fridge, or a new car, he adds.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO, Celebrity Cruises, agreed that pent-up demand is propelling strong sales for 2021 and 2022. Amid the cruise industry’s suspension of operations, she says, “our team took a step back and asked, how do we want to come out of this?’ We looked at everything, from deployment to pricing to strategy.”
Lutoff-Perlo added that Celebrity will be heading up post-pandemic, in more ways than one. “We’ll be straddling luxury in an even bigger way than we have in the past,” she said.