The cruise industry is making progress on discussions with government to update advice against ocean sailings but is being hampered by rising Covid infection rates in the UK, according to experts.
Ben Bouldin, vice-president EMEA for Royal Caribbean, told a Future of Travel Week webcast that discussions were positive, but that the sector faced a similar challenge to others such as sports and entertainment in getting official blessing from government for gatherings.
Speaking on Thursday last week, Saga chief executive Euan Sutherland said he expected government guidance to be updated “in the next few days”. However, the update to the advice has yet to be confirmed.
Bouldin said: “We have to get an industry standard that the government is happy with that will ultimately convince the Foreign Office that it is safe for them to bless the cruise industry again.
“We are making good progress but the challenge is the ever-rising rate of infection in the UK keeps hindering some of those steps.
“We think we’ve taken two steps forward and then we take a little step back, and that’s the reality of the world we live in right now.”
He added: “We are very confident that we have got to a set of protocols that we hope to be able to talk about as an industry in the not-too-distant future and we are keen to ensure it has all the relevant buy-in from government so we don’t have any false starts.”
Andy Harmer, director of Clia UK & Ireland, said: “We are making progress, but as with most things at the moment, things change quite quickly and things are quite fluid.
“We have been working very collaboratively not just with all of the cruise lines but with the relevant government departments and agencies.
“As we have seen from other industries, that collaborative approach is really important both from our perspective as an industry but from the government’s perspective so they are talking to one industry working together.”
Lucia Rowe, managing director of A-Rosa, said collaboration between lines and through Clia had already shown it worth by successful lobbying to remove river cruising from the FCO’s initial blanket advice against all cruise travel.
Ellen Bettridge, chief executive of Uniworld, added: “It is amazing how all the leaders of the river cruise companies are getting on a call, sharing best practice and talking about what we can do.”
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