The cruise industry's favorite publication, Travel Weekly, just published an article titled After Tunis attack, Impact on Cruise Sales Pondered.
The article speculates whether cruise sales will drop following the Islamic State's massacre of cruise passenger's in Tunis last week.
In the last couple of years, first quarter "wave" sales were negatively impacted by the Costa Concordia disaster in January 2012 and the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise" in February 2013. The article suggests that whereas the sinking and engine room fire could arguably be blamed on the cruise lines, the public is not likely to fault the cruise lines for the terror attack last week.
I disagree with that premise. Costa and MSC sailed into a country with a history of fighting between Tunisian solders and Al Qaeda resulting in dozen of soldiers killed and wounded over the last two years. Tunisian men have been recruited to train in ISIS camps in Libya. There had been prior attacks against a popular museum in Tunisia and a suicide bomber blew himself up in a hotel frequented by tourists. What did the cruise lines think would happen after Tunisians were radicalized and trained to use automatic weapons in Libya and then returned home?
The public can easily conclude that the cruise lines sailed their guests into harm's way without warnings or any thought of providing security for the excursion buses.
But the cruise supporters are out in full force spinning the story to exculpate the cruise lines.
Bud Darr, a mouthpiece for the Cruise Line International association (CLIA), argues that the terror attack against cruise passengers "was not targeted at cruise passengers."
Another CLIA representative said: "Cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident."
The editor of Cruise Week, Mike Driscoll, spun the attack-on-cruise-passengers as not a "black eye" for cruising "because it's not the cruise lines' fault, and it didn't happen on a ship."
Travel Weekly interviewed a travel agent who said “I think we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that this will not have a negative impact.”
Travel Weekly published statements from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) who claims that "cruise lines have worked for many years with security and law enforcement authorities around the world to ensure passenger safety." CLIA claims that it has procedures to provide “an immediate and effective response to any (security) incident.”
I don't believe it for a second.
The day before the attack the cruise executives were salivating over expanding their markets into North Africa and making greater profits. Their minds were on money, not security.
Costa and MSC were caught flat-footed in Tunis.
A former cruise line security chief was highly critical of the absence of any security for the Costa and MSC cruise passengers.
CLIA and Travel publications like Travel Weekly will continue issuing statements and publishing stories claiming that cruise passengers are safe and sound in North Africa and the Middle East. But the specter of dead passengers certainly will scare customers away and drive down cruise sales, especially in the Mediterranean. If the cruise industry is going to cross its fingers, it better be in the hope that ISIS doesn't target a cruise ship.
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Photo Credit: International Business Times