By Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta.
It is now over a week since we first saw the shocking and saddening images of the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the Tuscan coast, resulting in the tragic loss of life of several passengers and crew members.
As divers continue the search of the ship, the investigation continues onshore as to the exact chain of events that led to the disaster. Inevitably, there has been a lot of speculation around the causes of the incident but quite rightly we should wait for the results of the formal enquiry by Italian authorities to fully understand what happened.
Whatever the findings of the investigation, customers will continue to have an understandable hunger for information about the safety regulations and regimes in place on board cruise ships.
In the last week, Abta has received a number of calls from concerned members of the public, Abta Members and the media. Abta's Consumer Affairs Department, which is our main port of call for customer enquiries, has received a relatively small number of calls about the incident, which no doubt reflects the important role that Members play in reassuring concerned customers.
It is probably also an indication that the clientele for cruising tend to be loyal and committed, and well placed through personal experience to know that cruising is fundamentally a very safe and well regulated form of travel. Most consumers understand that the Costa Concordia incident is fortunately very rare.
The greatest concern may well come from customers who are considering a cruise for the first time. Here, agents have a key role to play in providing expert knowledge and advice, and providing balanced and accurate information.
Cruise Lines International, the European Cruise Council and the Passenger Shipping Association last week brought together a panel of leading Maritime safety experts to field questions from both print and broadcast media to showcase both the high safety standards and regulations in place and quashing some misconceptions. The media briefing may be viewed in its entirety at http://www.europeancruisecouncil.com/mediabriefing and is recommended viewing for anyone working with cruise customers at this time.
For our part, Abta will continue to field consumer and media questions and this week we are conducting a series of regional radio interviews in which we will be highlighting all the work done by the cruise industry to ensure the safety of passengers. We will also follow the investigation closely and monitor any outcomes and recommendations that emerge.
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