Reuters Falls For Cruise Industry's PR Release

This year has been a public relations mess for the cruise industry.

2012 started off with the January Costa Concordia disaster, followed by a series of articles and TV specials about cruise ship engine failures, fires, sexual assaults and controversy over the cruise industry's manipulation of the new cruise safety law.

Just the other week the cruise industry's best friend, the Miami Herald, published a critical article stating that "the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

Costa Cruise Ship Collision But yesterday the cruise industry tried to turn the bad press around. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) released a press release stating that it polled 300 of its 16,000 CLIA travel agents and over one-half of them claim to be "doing better than last year."

But let's take a look at the actual poll.  The percentage who claim to be doing better is only 51.9% which, if accurate, means that 48.1 are doing no better or even worse than last year.

Of course, the CLIA poll is not scientific, or quantifiable, or verified by a third party.  Even if it were, there would still be a margin of error, something like like 4-5%.  So the notion that over half of travel agents are really enjoying increased bookings is a rather dubious proposition at best.

But that did not stop Reuters from writing a promo piece for CLIA "US Cruise Industry Sees Increased Bookings for 2012." Reuters ran with the conclusions on the CLIA PR release that ticket sales were up and then quoted the CLIA CEO Christine Duffy characterizing the Costa Concordia disaster as "a very isolated event and not indicative of how the broader cruise industry operates."

Other travel publications then quickly fell in line and reported that cruise ticket sales were up. 

Breaking Travel News reported "Cruise Lines International Association Finds Optimism in Industry;" Travelers Today published "Cruise Bookings on the Rise in 2012 Despite Costa Concordia Incident;" Travel Agent's Report stated "Agents' Cruise Sales Are Outpacing 2011;" and the Sun Sentinel reported "Cruise Agents Optimistic About Sales, Survey Says."

Its a fascinating process to watch a cruise industry, battered by bad press, create its own happy news and then feed it to the press as a newsworthy event.

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Guy - July 20, 2012 6:05 PM

You are right, "It's a fascinating process to watch a cruise industry... create its own happy news" when revelations of the majors' scandalously bad behavior are gaining traction in the mainstream media.

It would be interesting to know when CLIA's polling took place; I'm guessing it was before the 6-month anniversary of the Concordia disaster triggered the current spate of critical stories, and almost certainly before the impact of these reports would be reflected in reduced bookings.

Perhaps the acid test of booking momentum will be revealed in Royal Caribbean' and Carnival's next SEC Form 10Q financial disclosures, both in Management Comments and in comparing their respective Gross Revenue, year-over-year.

Perhaps RCL' upcoming Earnings Conference Call (7/26/12 10:00 A.M. ET) will be another litmus test. After all, it wasn't "their* ship that sunk, so a disclosure of reduced revenue might logically be attributed to the Conordia disaster's broader impact on the industry as a whole.

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