MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said the future is bright for the cruise industry, and predicted a 2023 return to 2019 passenger levels in a morning speech at a cruise conference in Miami.
“But today we can see remarkable progress and how effectively we’ve risen to those challenges,” Vago said. “Our track record shows what we can do together as a determined, responsible and innovative industry.
“Now, even before we enter the summer season, we can see the momentum building in our industry’s revival,” noted Vago, also speaking as Executive Chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association.
The industry’s restart meanwhile continues to accelerate, with 347 cruise ships set to sail in May, compared to 300 in April and just 47 last May.
Vago said that more than 100 countries around the world have now reopened to cruising and that every 24 cruise guests generate one full-time job.
“With these figures, we’re again telling the story of cruising and its role in supporting coastal communities,” he said.
“This is possible not simply because our ships are back, but because the commitments we made in the early days of the pandemic have been delivered and are shown to be effective.”
Vago said that the industry had led the hospitality sector’s response to the pandemic.
“The portion of people who have never cruised but said they were open to cruising is now 69%, also higher than in 2019,” he continued.
Going forward, the industry will need to generate confidence to get back to pre-pandemic prosperity.
“But as our fleets expand, and as we reduce their environmental impact, we also need to increase volumes to fill a demand gap of 4.7 million passengers by 2025,” Vago said. “This involves realizing the full potential of loyal repeat cruise customers, as well as developing new business among new-to-cruise markets.”
That means continuing to work with travel trade partners, which Vago said had suffered the greatest hardships of the pandemic.
“These short-term challenges matter hugely, but in the long run, sustainability is the critical issue that we face. Our growth must fully integrate sustainable approaches.”
Sustainable moves include LNG ships, he said, which are already sailing, plus batteries, fuel cells and more.
“It is essential that governments around the world include cruising – and investment in new and innovative cruise vessels – in their sustainable finance programmes, such as the European taxonomy initiative. The cruise industry is an integral part of sustainable transport and tourism, it should receive adequate support as part of decarbonization programs and funding policies.”