Carnival Corporation chief executive, Arnold Donald, has said the cruise sector could return to the United States in as little as 30 days should the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) lift a ‘no sail’ order at the end of the month.
All activity is effectively banned at ports across the country until October 31st, with the sector awaiting a decision on the future of the restrictions.
However, Donald said he was taking nothing for granted.
“We are hopeful the CDC will lift the ‘no sail’ order on November 1st – given the measures we have put in place and the modest restart we have seen in Europe.
“In terms of readiness, we are working with the interest parties to get ready.
“The destinations have their own governing bodies, and it will take time to partner up with those in order for us to return.
“It will take 30-to-60 days to prepare to effectively sail out of the United States, depending on which protocols are selected by the CDC.”
There has been some modest return to operation in Europe, with Carnival-owned Costa welcoming guests in Italy.
The situation in the United States is more complex, with the CDC seeking further assurances from the cruise sector that it can guarantee the safety of passengers.
“The science is beginning to align – it has become obvious that if you want to minimise the spread you have to control the environment, and this means no shore excursions for the time being,” explained Arnold.
“But we have to keep the essence of cruising – the sector is elective, nobody has to be on a cruise ships, as opposed to a hotel.
“From the early sailings, we hear guests are having a great experience, and this is positive to see.
“We are working on how to create distancing without compromising the human connection – this means adding new shows to the theatre, adding some private dining and everything we can do.”
He added: “It is going to be a slow and staggered restart - everybody is going to have their own spin on reopening.
“There are going to be twists and we will have to manage through - over time we will defeat this.”
Carnival Corporation has been losing around $700 million a month over the course of the pandemic to date.
However, the company is positioned to survive until a reopening, Arnold added.
“This is a devastating time for the cruise industry – we have had no revenue for months now.
“We have worked on major workforce reductions; we have worked to repatriate 80,000 crew members to their homes at our expense.
“But we have raised $14 billion over the last few months to give us a runway well into next year, even with zero revenue
“We all want to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and to operate in the bet interest of public health.
“We need to work out how to do that, and we think we have come up with operating procedures that allow us to do that – to welcome guests, but allow us to keep cases down.”
Arnold was speaking at the Future Hospitality Summit, a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry, and will take place in Riyadh over the next two days.
The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the hospitality community, will be delivered on a cutting-edge event platform from Bench Digital.
It will provide an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking and integrated chat features to all participants.
Future Hospitality Summit is organised by ministry of tourism Saudi Arabia and G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Program, honouring the G20 Saudi presidency 2020.
Find out more on the official website.