Cruising is set to return to pre-pandemic levels with an expected 27 to 33 million passengers worldwide this year, according to Pierfrancesco Vago, the chairman of industry association CLIA and executive chairman of MSC Cruises.
Vago was speaking on Tuesday morning at the Seatrade event held in. Ft. Lauderdale.
In his speech, Vago said that by 2026, the global figure will reach almost 39 million passengers, or 30 percent higher than in 2019.
He said an enormous amount of work is required to achieve this, including efforts to attract first-time cruisers.
Vago added that the industry was taking this path supported by a strong track record, dedicated trade partners, and positive consumer sentiment.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Vago said that the intention to cruise is higher than before the pandemic, with CLIA research showing 85 percent of those who have cruised in the past likely to do so again, while interest among those who have never cruised before is also up.
Vago also pointed out that 2023 would deliver the youngest, cleanest and most technologically advanced fleet ever, with the greenest ships yet launching this year.
These ships will bring greater efficiencies, lower emissions, advances in design and propulsion, new fuels, and sophisticated technologies to monitor and optimize energy use. Vago stated that 70 percent of the reduction in emissions could be achieved through technological innovation, with the remaining 30 percent down to the fuel.
He emphasized the need for sustainable fuels, with ships built to adapt to future fuels like synthetic and bio.
The chairman said that the cruise industry was leading the way in responsible travel, with an opportunity to become an essential industry.
Vago stated that the sector had made progress in decarbonization ahead of many other businesses and society. industry was also leading in the adoption of shoreside electricity, with 40 percent of global capacity fitted to operate on shoreside power in ports where it is provided, and almost all newbuilds ready for the technology.
However, Vago said that ports were behind where they needed to be, both in Europe and the US, given the looming legislative deadlines set by European institutions. The cruise industry was also working with coastal communities to support their goals for sustainable tourism while generating positive economic impact.
Vago outlined three key factors that the industry needed to achieve its vision for net-zero: passion, purpose, and perseverance. He said success was only possible through action and persistence, from scenario planning to ongoing assessment and reporting on progress, to making the necessary adjustments to stay on course.
Despite the challenges facing the industry, Vago said the commitment was clear, and the industry would achieve a responsible and sustainable future. He said the industry was not only sailing to a better future but a better world, a responsibility it held for future generations.
Vago called for the cruise sector and maritime technology industry to be fully considered in national and regional schemes for renewable energy deployment mechanisms, and for the financial world to see the industry as innovators. He added that access to Green Finance, such as taxonomy, was also essential to ensure the future of sustainable shipbuilding.
“We shouldn’t forget, but maybe we all need reminding, we offer the best vacation there is today, no one and nowhere offers a better experience or better value for money,” he said.