Come sail away to the future of cruising
In spite of all the challenges the industry faced this year, Mark Conroy, Silversea’s Managing Director, The Americas, is also optimistic about the recovery for the industry.
“I am confident that when we start operating again there will be a flourish of bookings. Until two weeks ago, our bookings for 2021 were actually stronger than in 2020 on the same date,” Conroy tells Travel Courier, adding that 2019 was one of the best in the company’s history and 2020 was shaping up to be equally impressive. “Our loyal-most guests are leading the way in terms of booking, and there are encouraging signs for both 2021 and 2022. I speak with lots of Canadian travel advisors and guests and I consistently hear how they look forward to cruising again.”
Conroy points out that the typical luxury traveller is an active person who is constantly on the go.
“In most cases, their income has not be affected by this event but they have not had much of an opportunity to spend so when things open again there is a good chance they will even add an additional trip to their schedule,” he says. “I have a strong belief in the strength of the travel industry and I know that Silversea will recover quickly because our guests are travellers, not tourists. They cannot wait to travel again.”
As for some of the ways the travel industry will be different post COVID-19, he says travellers will need to follow the rules for established health protocols.
“I think everyone — from the travel advisor to onboard personnel, and all parties in between — will have to work to keep our guests safe from the time they leave home until the moment they return,” he says. “Nevertheless, cruising is an inherently social means of traveling, and we will ensure that – while physical distancing will safeguard travellers’ health – the onboard experience will remain a social one. Meeting friends at the bar and enjoying a wonderful dinner with them will always be part of the Silversea experience. The table will probably be more spread out and seating fewer people, but the essence of the unique Silversea experience will remain in place.”
Conroy says the health and safety of travellers has long stood as a fundamental concern within the global cruise industry.
“Our industry indeed probably applies the most rigid sanitary protocols,” he says, noting that Silversea is also being informed by the findings of the Healthy Sail Panel. “Our protocol will be safer than ever when we do resume sailing once the time is right. The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is always our foremost concern.”
Once the new safety protocols are in place, he says the company believes guests will appreciate their travel and cruise experiences more after being deprived of them for so long.
“Our small ships give us an advantage, too, insomuch as our guests have more space and a higher crew-to-guest ratio,” he says. “We can build on our already exceptional service to reduce physical contact. At the buffet, for example: we already serve diners at their tables, but we will enhance our service further still. Where possible, we will keep our travel experience as closed-loop as possible, for the health and safety of our guests.”
Although it will be more challenging to attract the new-to-cruising segment, he says loyal guests are eager to sail again.
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to create the safest possible conditions for our guests to return with the resumption of sailing – only once the time is right and we can assure the trademark Silversea experience that travellers expect,” he says. “The cruise industry is one of the few industries that is required to report illness, so we already have systems set up to deal with them. People need to understand and feel comfortable that they are no more at risk taking a cruise then they are going to church, dinner, a concert or sporting event.”
Having been in the business for 47 years, Conroy says he’s seen his fair share of rough seas.
“There are no challenges that we cannot overcome. Nevertheless, I really could not envisage an issue that would stop our entire industry and most of the world for so long,” he says. “I truly miss the interaction with our team/crew, our travel partners and miss the feedback and excitement that our beautiful ships and amazing itineraries produce. I miss our own team and crew members and who have been put out of work and are not able to do the job they truly want to do.”
However, he says, it is important to stay positive and focus on the future.
“Everyone is contributing what they can so that we can get all back to work delivering dreams,” Conroy says. “So it should start by little things, washing our hands and wearing masks when appropriate and following rules.”