During a webconference with travel agents today, Vicki Freed, Senior VP of Sales, said that although Royal Caribbean has already suspended sailings through May 11th, there would be news this week about that. Other cruise lines are already starting to extend cancelation windows deeper into the summer. Logically the coming news will likely see RCI mirror its industry peers and extend the brands suspension of sailings this year.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued an additional 100 day no-sail directive already. However several cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, are pushing back on the suggestion of not cruising that long. It remains that 80,000 crew members are on over a hundred ships across the industry. Sending crew members home is difficult due to travel restrictions in their home countries. The want to send them home is questionable as well since re-crewing ships after they have left the ship would be expensive and exceedingly hard.
Europe, select regions of the U.S. and other areas where the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is peaking are starting plans for relaxing travel and economic restrictions. Johnson and Johnson is starting production of a non-approved vaccine in anticipation FDA approval and global distribution in early 2021. However the crisis the pandemic represents and the impact on cruising is far from over.
Little this week isn't tied to some aspect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19's viral cause.) That is certain to continue for most of 2020 depsite optimistic hopes to the contrary. Politics being unwelcome on Travelers Dominion we stick to rational and informed supisition and discussion. To that end, there are some updates to consider carefully.
Endgame and Recovery Planning
Several contries, Germany in particular are discussing "travel passports" which would be issued and require undetermined health validations. This mirrors comments in the U.S. alluding to use of antibody testing to certify people can return to work or travel. The thinking in the latter being that one gains immunity from having been exposed to the COVID-19 virus (thus the antibodies.) However it would require months for such testing and documentation to matriculate through the U.S. and beyond. This again lends weight to 2020 being a bad year for travel. While some parts of regional travel industry and services maybe able to begin operation again before the end of summer, it is going to be a slow process for major industries to resume full operations before the end of the year.
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is extending the "no sail" mandate for an additional 100 days unless contraviened by another authority. This effectively means crusies on ships carrying more than 250 people are over until at least mid-July. Even a July re-start presumes response planning by the cruise industry is approved by the CDC and the state of the pandemic allows for it. The cruise lines are continuing to be generous with rebooking options however.
The Strip remains shut-down and the major hotel and casino operators are girding for months more of the same. Several journals following Las Vegas expect that major buffets will not re-open after the current crisis ends. However it is expected that pricing for hotels will be low for a year or more after operations resume.
The Department of Homeland Security reports that present air travel is down 96% from normal. Social distancing and work-from-home mandates have added to the near total shut-down of the travel industry to leave airports devoid of passengers.