The cruise industry, one of the fastest-growing sectors within the tourism industry, has been sailing through turbulent waters. From reputation management during crises to incorporating sustainable practices, the industry is constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges. In this article, we delve into the issues reshaping the cruise industry and the strategies it’s employing to navigate these choppy seas.
1. Reputation Management during Times of Crisis
Reputation management is a key asset for cruise lines, affecting customers’ attitudes, perceptions, and travel decisions. A crisis can not only negatively impact passengers but also damage a cruise line’s reputation, leading to adverse publicity, distorted brand image, and revenue loss.
1.1 The Role of Crisis Communication
Effective crisis communication can help protect organizational reputation during crisis times. The Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) suggests a crisis response should include:
- Instructing information: Public safety information related to the incident.
- Adjusting information: Information that helps the audience cope with the crisis psychologically.
- Reputation management strategies: Strategies for crisis responses to protect an organization’s reputational assets.
These strategies can help reshape the attribution of the crisis, change the public’s perception of the organization, and reduce the negative effects associated with the crisis.
1.2 Current Practices in the Cruise Industry
A review of the current practices in the cruise industry revealed mixed findings. Most cruise lines have adopted suitable reputational management strategies. However, they often fail to provide enough public safety information. Thus, it’s necessary to stay informed about the current measures adopted by cruise lines to respond to major incidents effectively.
2. The Impact of COVID-19 on the Cruise Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the social transformation phenomena in the cruise industry. The entire cruise ship industry structure has fundamentally shifted from supply-driven to demand-driven. Social transformation has become a driving force that is more society-specific.
2.1 The Changing Cruise Market
At the beginning of 2020, the cruise industry was one of the fastest-growing sectors of the travel industry. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes. Cruise lines seek to emerge in a stronger position post-pandemic by understanding how passengers’ habits have changed during the crisis and how it affects their behavior throughout their entire customer journey.
2.2 Adapting Cruise Operations to the Pandemic
Cruise lines have strived towards a series of anti-infection measures. Pre-boarding screening is conducted before embarkation. Passengers are screened upon entering the cruise terminal. Social distancing measures are also enforced on board. However, these additional measures have led to longer turnaround times and reduced cruising capacities.
3. Sustainable Practices in the Cruise Industry
As the industry resumes its rapid growth trajectory, environmental impact is a significant concern for the cruise industry. The industry is investing heavily in waste reduction with innovative environmental technology, such as the use of liquified natural gas (LNG), exhaust gas cleaning (EGCS), advanced water treatment systems, and shoreside electricity.
3.1 The Challenge of Reducing Emissions
Cruise lines are currently investing upward of $25 billion in new vessels with improved environmental performance to meet new rules from the International Maritime Organization. However, there are conflicting studies on the environmental implications of the widespread use of scrubbers and LNG as transition fuels.
3.2 Responsible Tourism
Cruise lines are working with local communities to manage the flow of passengers visiting each port of call responsibly, protecting the culture, environment, unique heritage, and landscape of the destinations visited. However, over-tourism is a concern in crowded port cities and pristine marine environments.
4. Catering to Emerging Market Segments
Sales strategies in the cruise industry are now much more sensitive to the needs of different market segments. For instance, there is a growing focus on catering to single cruisers. Additionally, the industry is witnessing the growth of luxury expedition cruising, alternative destinations such as private islands and marine reserves, and the increasing popularity of two- and three-day micro-cruises.
5. Technological Innovations in the Cruise Industry
The growing interest of Millennials and Generation Z in cruises is driving the upgrade of internet connectivity onboard. Cruise ships are massively investing in inline apps, wearable technology, cabin voice recognition devices, facial recognition cameras, touch screen devices for on-board service reservations, digital concierge services, robotics, and health apps.
5.1 New Onboard Digital Experience
The digital experience onboard a cruise ship is becoming increasingly important. From multifunctional bracelets that include geolocation systems to touch screen devices for onboard service reservations, technologically advanced features are enhancing the cruising experience for passengers.
5.2 Innovative Onboard Concept Venues and Accommodation
Cruise passengers are increasingly looking for a sense of privacy, different service experiences, and entertainment. As a result, cruise lines are introducing new, innovative onboard concept venues and accommodations to meet these demands.
6. Future Landscapes in the Cruise Industry
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise companies are progressing on existing fleet expansion projects and restarting shipyard operations that were put on hold in 2020. However, the industry needs to prepare for how the passenger experience and onboard operations might look different in the future.
6.1 The Role of Environmental Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is one of the major trends that will shape the cruise industry over the next decade. The industry is investing heavily in waste reduction with innovative cutting-edge environmental technology.
6.2 The Importance of Responsible Tourism
Cruise lines are working with local communities to find the best way to manage the flow of passengers visiting each port of call, in order to protect the culture, the environment, the unique heritage, and landscape of the destinations visited.
7. Navigating the New Disruptive COVID-19 Scenario
Cruise line companies seeking to emerge in a stronger position after the pandemic should develop a systematic understanding of how passengers’ habits have changed during the crisis and how it affects their behavior within their entire customer journey.
7.1 Understanding Consumer Behavior
Which variables will passengers take into consideration in selecting their next cruise? What do passengers expect in terms of safety and health standards? How will cruise lines keep their ships free from COVID-19, and how will they prepare themselves for further outbreaks? These are key aspects that cruise companies need to fully understand in order to keep their loyal passengers and to attract Generation Z as well.
7.2 Adopting New Safety Measures
New protocols have been developed to implement measures that aim at minimizing the exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 onboard cruise vessels and throughout the customer journey. The way the protocols will be implemented within the operations will ensure the consolidation of the longstanding competitive advantages cruise companies have achieved until the COVID-19 crisis.
8. The Value Proposition for Future Landscapes
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise companies are progressing on existing fleet expansion projects and restarting shipyard operations that were put on hold in 2020. When the industry restarts, the passengers’ experience and the onboard operations are likely to look very different onboard.
8.1 Ensuring a Safe and Healthy On-Board Environment
Cruise companies will implement new procedures that will impact the passengers’ cruise experience and the onboard operations. These include pretesting and vaccination for all passengers and crew members, embarkation and disembarkation, social distancing in public areas, onboard back and front of the house operations, medical and public health standards, and shore excursions activities.
8.2 The Role of Digital Transformation
Cruise lines are picturing cruise ships as the safest form of travel for the future, promoting the vessels as a COVID-19 free environment or “bubble”. Communication strategies are focused on the effective implementation of tested protocols. Time will confirm whether it will be enough to cope with the pandemic crises or if it will be necessary to re-conceive the core of the cruise business itself in the long run.
The cruise industry is facing a wave of transformation induced by disruptive crises, technological advancements, and environmental concerns. By adopting effective crisis management strategies, prioritizing sustainable practices, catering to emerging market segments, and leveraging technological innovations, the industry can navigate through these turbulent waters.
10. Looking Forward
As the cruise industry continues to evolve and adapt to new challenges, it’s essential to stay informed about the current measures adopted by cruise lines. By doing so, cruise lines can better respond to major incidents, manage their reputations effectively, and navigate through the turbulent waters of transformation.
The future of the cruise industry relies heavily on its ability to adapt and evolve in the face of these transformations. The industry’s response to these challenges will shape its course for the years to come. As the industry sails into uncharted waters, it remains to be seen how it will navigate these challenges and emerge stronger on the other side. One thing is for sure – the cruise industry is on a journey of transformation, and it’s a journey worth watching.