The Executive Director of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism, Peter Cranis, told Cruise Industry News that the office was very pleased and excited to hear about the CDC looking to allow cruises to restart in mid-July.
“We’ve been working with a lot of entities to try to get cruising back sooner rather than later. The CDC had put in some very strict guidelines last year that made it prohibitive for the cruise lines to actually implement, so we’re very pleased and excited that they’ve heard us as an industry, and are now responding,” Cranis said.
“It’s not surprising that what they’re requesting seems to match up with where the cruise lines were headed, which is to have all of their crew vaccinated and then require that passengers be vaccinated before they get onboard a ship. That is something that the cruise lines have been looking at for some time now, and I believe that it’s probably the quickest path to getting back to cruising,” he added.
According to him, it will now be down to the center and the cruise lines to discuss future steps to a restart.
“I believe that the cruise lines are going to have to work directly with (the CDC) because the CDC will have to sign off on their operational plans. … I think as soon as the cruise lines put their plans on paper, they’re going to get those out to the CDC and then look for approval. From there, the cruise lines will have to work with the ports,” Cranis said.
According to Cranis, Space Coast ports are ready for a mid-July restart but getting back to full operation will take “six to eight more months.” One of the things that will take cruise lines some time to implement is getting their crew fully vaccinated.
“From these days, it’s going to take a good 60 days for them to get in a position where they can have a ship going out of the port,” he said.
Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism is home to Port Canaveral – the world’s second busiest cruise port. According to Cranis, pre-COVID-19, around 2.3 million cruise passengers went through Port Canaveral per annum.
“For the last year, we’ve had zero passengers. That had a couple of different impacts. One, major layoff – several thousand people have been laid off from jobs associated with the port and cruising, about $90 million in lost revenue to the port itself. And then, several hundred million dollars in lost visitor spending because a good portion of those passengers stay at least one night here in Space Coast and, without cruising, a lot of those passengers have opted not to come here and stay. So, we’re missing out on all of that visitor spending,” Cranis explained.
To recover from these losses, it will take several years.
“We had predicted that our budget would recover by 2023. So, two more years. It could be faster than that, but I think, realistically, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get everything in place to do that. That being said, we’re very bullish on the summer. We think this summer will be a big opportunity for some level of recovery for us. We’re launching a $2-million marketing campaign in June, and we believe that Americans are ready to travel again,” Cranis said.
He added that he believes that Florida will be a major cruising destination for summer 2021 and the Space Coast is well-positioned for “being able to get a share of that market.”