The last cruise ships sailing the open seas have docked and disgorged their passengers. What next for this industry?
Anews story published by the BBC spoke about the cruise ship MSC Magnifica as the last one on planet earth. Well, the story itself said that this was not technically true as there are two other ships, the Pacific Princess and the Costa Deliziosa that are about to disembark their passengers and crew. By the time this goes to print, it is likely that all three ships would have docked and emptied out. But the question is whether this will be the last ship sailing with passengers. As is known, for many tourists, cruises are the ideal vacation. Be that as it may, the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak has also proved that as much convenience and luxury it offers, cruises also provide a golden opportunity to get sick. The cruise ship industry, like every other part of the travel and tourism sector, is under immense stress at this point of time. But given that cruise ships such as the notorious Diamond Princess that docked at Yokohama, Japan, became a focal point of the viral outbreak, is there going to be a return of the floating cities? Some of the largest ships across the world have a combined passenger and crew complement of close to 10,000 souls. Yet, by their very size and the fact that they are self-contained spaces, the ships became a harbour for disease. This followed a few years when huge outbreaks of diarrhoea overtook ships, particularly in the US. This has led to speculation that this particular part of the travel and tourism sector might take a lot longer time to revive than others. The bad public relations that the industry has suffered might mean that the golden age of the cruise ships, which constantly got larger and larger and brushed off disasters like the Costa Concordia with ease, is over. Hopefully when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the cruise industry will do its best to lure the passengers with cheaper prices.
Back home, there will be a huge impact on employment. Here, it must be kept in mind that the cruise industry’s economic model is one that hires people from poor countries, who are willing to endure exploitation and mistreatment. Thousands of Indians had been working onboard such ships, which included the cleaning staff, those in the kitchens and even entertainers. Of course, there were the merchant navy officers running the ships, too. Many of them, like millions of other Indians, will not have a job to return to anytime soon. With the entire travel industry expected to be in the doldrums for a couple of years, there maybe be very few options as well. India would do well to encourage smaller cruise lines to operate in and around its shores once this crisis is over. If for nothing else but to get its people working again. It must use the post-COVID-19 situation as an opportunity to grab a larger slice of the tourist trade whenever it does recover.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)