Cruise

“Where is the cruise industry’s coronavirus response?”: Agency boss fires up at CLIA

The managing director of an Aussie travel agency has vented his spleen over the cruise industry’s lack of leadership in navigating through the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 crisis.

Your Travel Centre boss Les Farrar (pictured above) penned an opinion piece questioning the tactics of the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) and calling on the industry body to “communicate more candidly” with travel agents who are dealing with “nervous customers”.

“At this uncertain and unprecedented time, we want to see our cruise association front and centre, taking the lead in the public relations battle and providing clarity and context, where appropriate,” Farrar wrote.

“Instead, CLIA members are being asked to take up the fight, with a recent email from the association suggesting we write to our MPs and share positive stories.”

You can read Farrar’s blog in full below:

Since the coronavirus started making headlines, the cruise industry has been cast adrift, and to date, we don’t appear to have a captain steering us through these uncharted waters.

Where AFTA has been using the media to appeal for patience and calm, cruise industry leaders have been silent.

At this uncertain and unprecedented time, we want to see our cruise association front and centre, taking the lead in the public relations battle and providing clarity and context, where appropriate.

Instead, CLIA members are being asked to take up the fight, with a recent email from the association suggesting we write to our MPs and share positive stories.

Given the fact millions of Australians lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy, I question whether writing to my local MP to “share our personal stories” is appropriate or effective.

And many of us aren’t sure what story to tell or what CLIA wants us to say to our MPs. Is it the economic benefits of cruising, as was the focus of this email?

While the employment and economic benefits of the cruise industry are worth highlighting, perhaps what we also need are some ideas for what’s next, especially around measures to minimise the risk to anyone’s health when they next board a ship.

It’s not too early to talk about what the cruise industry has learned from this crisis, or what ideas are being discussed at the highest levels to ensure public confidence can eventually be restored.

Is the industry considering more stringent health requirements for elderly passengers or those with pre-existing medical conditions, and has any thought been given to expanding medical facilities onboard ships to better cope with serious health issues?

Can we accommodate less people onboard existing ships to increase the passenger space ratio?

And what about new sanitising standards, with longer periods between disembarkation and embarkation to allow more time for professional teams to complete a deep clean?

I also understand that an Australian company has begun trials of touch-free check-in kiosks which can determine a passenger’s temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate before boarding a vessel or aircraft.

As CLIA Australasia MD Joel Katz said recently, “Agents will be key to the cruise industry’s recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic”, but in order for them to take the first steps towards recovery, they need strong leadership and for CLIA to communicate more candidly with the industry’s largest sales force – the network of frontline agents dealing with their nervous customers right now.


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