Will the Cruise Industry Bounce Back? UNWTO Offers Insight

The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has offered their take on the future of tourism at large. Their statements can be combined with some of our existing knowledge to paint a picture of the future of the cruise industry. As the coronavirus pandemic progresses, we learn more about what is and isn’t possible in regards to travel, and our conception of how the cruise industry will fare is perpetually shifting. Certain companies are doing fine, while others are suffering. Different strategies are being employed, yet there seems to be no general plan on what should happen. Let’s take a look at what the UNWTO has to say to see what we can apply to the cruise industry.

The state of things

According to the UNWTO, there are several different scenarios that could play out when it comes to tourism around the world. They all depend on the time when we can consider the coronavirus contained. Basically, the longer we take, the greater the damage to the tourism industry. If travel restrictions and borders are relaxed by early July, international tourism should be expected to be down by 58%. If it takes until early September, there will be a 70% decline. If it’s early December, a 78% decline.

What does this mean?

We can learn a few things from this. The first is that a lot of the damage has already been done. While it would certainly make the international tourism industry suffer more the longer it takes for travel restrictions to be eased, the damage seems to get less intense over time. From July to September is a 12% decrease in tourism damage, while September to December is only 8%. We should also note that tourism has been hit incredibly hard. At some point, certain industries and sectors will have a hard time recovering. But where is that point?


To put it simply, the tourism industry is in danger. Depending on which of the scenarios outlined above come true, a “loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism” should be expected, alongside “100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.” Whether it’s the cruise industry or anything else, those are tough numbers to just get back up from.

The future for the cruise industry

The UNWTO offered the fact that people are currently much more willing to travel within their own country rather than outside of it, which is something that could be perhaps be used to the advantage of certain cruise lines. A focus on Hawaiian, Alaskan, Caribbean or any other relatively near-by cruises could work well for American cruise lines. Those that are already in the river cruise market could potentially see earlier bookings than any other lines, as well.

The moral of the story

It’s hard to construe the figures from UNWTO as anything other than negative. But, we should keep some optimism in our minds. Carnival’s booking numbers are way up LINK, and people see eager to travel. The key is to contain, track and be as aware of the virus as possible. If we can do that, travel can resume and these industries will not suffer as much as the worst case scenarios predict.

Will the Cruise Industry Bounce Back? UNWTO Offers Insight
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Will the Cruise Industry Bounce Back? UNWTO Offers Insight
The United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has offered their take on the future of tourism at large.

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