Keep calm and sell cruises

Charlie Funk

As a consultant for various entities, I produce a monthly summary on the current and future state of the cruise industry. My summary for January 2020 was quite upbeat.

That was Jan. 31. The first 15 days of February seemed almost as if someone had flipped a page in the book as we went deeper down the rabbit hole. While river cruise and land package bookings continued strong and unabated, Caribbean and Alaska bookings all but stopped.

We began monitoring for any mention of Covid-19 coronavirus in early January. We had fewer than 10 comments of any nature as of the middle of February, yet bookings had slowed precipitously.

Like many of you reading this, our clients are as current and aware of the situation as we are. Princess has been especially hard-hit over the past two weeks. The Diamond Princess has been mentioned more than 100,000 times in news reports since Feb. 3. All cruise lines, especially Princess and Holland America, have done yeoman duty in keeping the retail channel and clients informed.

We have had just one cancellation — that by a client who responded to intense pressure from his parents to not go on a cruise. The client had zero concern, but his path of least resistance was to cancel.

And of all the things we have seen, heard and read, you know the one thing I haven’t heard? There has not been one single negative comment directed at any cruise line through all of this. Let that sink in.

And for all those who are highly anxious about what the next few months will bring for our business, I need to communicate two separate occurrences to you.

I had an acquaintance approach me on Saturday with the opening comment, “Well, I guess this whole corona thing has all but stopped your cruise business.” He went on to lament all the negative press and how it was bound to hurt. Then he said, “But if you find any good deals out of New Orleans, I would be interested in tying that in with a visit to the World War II Museum.” Stack that on top of the list of things you’re letting sink in.

We produced our annual consumer event on Feb. 16. We had the highest turnout we had seen in six years. And they were buying, not window-shopping.

Many of you reading this survived 9/11, going to war in 2003 and the Great Recession. Many of you have been startups since all these things happened. Hang tough.  

The key is to remain calm so that your clients do not become needlessly alarmed.

This is a resilient industry. We have great partners. They have dealt with issues like this several times over the history of the industry. They have always found ways to bounce back before, and they will this time, too.

It’s like this: Now is not the time to let fear overwhelm our business sense and take control of what we do best: help others have a great vacation. Work the problem. Find the solution that is best for you. It is there if you look.

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