With the rise in reported coronavirus cases and the highly publicized case of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship and other vessels turned away at ports in Asia, we wanted to give our partners an idea of what to expect for the upcoming cruise season. We have been in discussions with Ron Peck, Director of Tourism Development at the Port of Seattle and others, and we will summarize the main points from those conversations in this article.

Although many forecasts are at a “wait-and-see” stage regarding the impact of the cruise industry in the Pacific Northwest, a recent survey conducted by Travel Weekly found that North America is currently perceived as the least risky destination for coronavirus. Although travel bookings in general have experienced a downturn, it is still too early to determine the ultimate impact that Covid 19 has had to date on the Alaska cruise market.

Comparing the coronavirus to past “travel crisis situations” such as concern by travelers about the level of terrorism in Europe, the Alaska cruise trade actually benefited because it was perceived as a “safe destination” and travelers opted for Alaska cruises in lieu of Europe. Currently, some leisure company brands such as Globus have stated that the company has been experiencing upticks in sales outside of Asia. Lindblad Cruises recently stated that there has been, “no decline in business’ due to virus.” Other cruise lines have stated the opposite and that advance bookings have fallen off.

Of course, the cruise lines with substantial product in Asia will have their bottom line impacted and if the Covid-19 crisis continues for an extended period, the ability for the Alaska trade to be strong again in 2020 may be of concern. If on the other hand, the situation is arrested or contained fairly soon, the Alaska trade should/could do well again this season. So far, Seattle actually obtained four additional calls because the Celebrity Millennium is repositioning to the West Coast. So, it is possible that these additional calls may offset any cancellations due to coronavirus fears.

In Summary:

  • Predictions are mixed and until the crisis appears arrested, we will really not be able to determine the outcome for the 2020 Alaska cruise season
  • Overall, travel arrangements and bookings of all types are down
  • North America is perceived as a relatively safe destination, but this could change on a dime.
  • Cruise lines with substantial product in Asia will have their bottom line impacted and if the threat continues, the ability for the Alaska trade to be strong again in 2020 may be in jeopardy.
  • So far, Alaska reports that they have not seen any changes in their summer 2020 bookings but did have some winter-season cancellations among China-based Northern lights groups.
  • Seattle actually has obtained four additional calls because the Celebrity Millennium is repositioning to the West Coast, resulting in 233 calls an increase of 11 calls from 2019

As the crisis is very fluid and volatile, Seattle Southside RTA will work to keep you informed.