Vago calls for universal testing to relaunch tourism sector
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ executive chairman, has addressed tourism ministers from the G20 group of nations and senior executives representing leading travel and tourism brands from all regions of the world.
In his remarks Vago urged business leaders to work with public authorities to embrace harmonised health protocols with rapid Covid-19 testing technologies at their heart to accelerate the sectors’ recovery.
Saudi Arabia, which assumed the G20 presidency in December, hosted the G20 tourism summit in Riyadh this week.
Seeking to foster greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, Saudi Arabia minister of tourism, Ahmed Al Khateeb, and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) held the virtual tourism public-private sector event to find new ways to support the recovery of Tourism.
Vago thanked all present for the opportunity to speak at this prestigious event and said: “I am here today to talk about our experience of in August being the first major cruise line to restart operations in the Mediterranean, following the global halt to cruise operations by our entire industry in March due to the pandemic.
“We were able to restart thanks to the implementation of our comprehensive health and safety protocol, which received approval from all the relevant health authorities in our markets of operation.”
Vago said the protocol has nine key pillars, including the testing of guests and crew, taking shore excursions in bubbles, HVAC ventilation, contingency response and having isolation space on board.
Tracking and tracing was also vital, he added, along with masks, physical distancing and Covid-19 prevalence monitoring.”
He continued: “The core element of the protocol is our universal testing of all guests and crew before embarkation to create a sterile and safe bubble, which protects them throughout their time with us.
“We are now in the midst of our eighth sailing with a second vessel due to restart later this month with a longer itinerary, and we have safely carried 16,000 guests.
“Throughout, we have been rigorous in the implementation of our protocol and have had to deny embarkation to well over 100 guests for testing positive, travelling with someone who tested positive, not having the correct medical paperwork or for infractions of our protocol.
“Our data shows that in a pandemic where up to 80% of those infected in the current outbreak are mild or asymptomatic according to the latest World Health Organisation data, there can be no doubt that testing is the key.”
Vago concluded: “My message to you all participating today is that thanks to our protocol and other similar ones, cruise ships could be considered possibly among the safest holidays anywhere in the world, and there is no reason why other forms of travel and holiday cannot be as safe.
“I hope that the data we have accrued, which I am sharing with you today, and the harmonisation of protocols across the entire transport, hospitality and tourism industry can be the way forward to work with authorities around the world as testing becomes more available.”
Take a look at all the coverage from the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia here.