This morning two news articles caught my eye. The first one from an Australian newspaper - "Cruising Boom: 20 Million Take to the Sea" - and the second one from one of my favorite newspapers, the LA Times - "Cruise Industry Rebounding from Ship Accident, Woes in Europe."
These headlines seem incongruous given the fact that the Costa Concordia remains capsized on its side as a continuing reminder of the deadly cruise disaster (image today).
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) does a very good job promoting statistics showing the growth of the cruise industry via press releases. Today we are learning that some 20,000,000 people took a cruise last year - a record year for cruising. According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
"A record 20 million people took a cruise last year, an increase of almost 2 million, according to the latest industry figures. While North America (11.5 million) and Europe (6.2 million) are the main markets, the Australian cruising market grew by 30 per cent, to more than 500,000 passengers."
That's good news for the cruise industry and travel agents who make a living selling cruises. But last year, of course, was pre Costa Concordia disaster. What are the prospects for the cruise industry post Costa Concordia?
According to the LA Times, the future of the $37 billion industry looks bright.
A survey of 300 travel agents in North America in July found that 64% expected bookings in 2012 to surpass last year's numbers. And plenty of new cruise ships are coming on line with 19 ships being added or slated to come on line in 2012 and 2013 (a rather surprising number to me - is this right?)
The newspaper interviewed Stewart Chiron, owner of CruiseGuy.com, who I bump heads with regularly on Twitter, saying "the impact of the Concordia on North America was almost nonexistent." That is a hard concept to wrap my head around - 32 dead including Americans with no effect on U.S. cruise sales? In my view, if this is true it reflects that Carnival (which has over 100 cruise ships) and the cruise industry can weather almost any storm provided that they remain immune from paying U.S. corporate taxes.
The newspaper concludes that cruise reservations are rising, and the drop in European bookings are offset by strong U.S. cruise ticket sales. The bottom line according to Times? The Costa Concordia disaster had only a short-term effect.
It seems to me that the LA Times article may be a tad optimistic, but who am I to rain on the cruise industry's good news? I was disappointed to see that the Times interviewed mostly just a cruise CEO, a travel agent and a cruise specialist without including an in depth analysis of the cruise lines' financial status.
It's kind of like writing an article about the prospects of a professional football team and then interviewing only the team's owner, players and cheerleaders.
Photo credit: Giglio News