After 14 months of break in overseas tourism, cruise ships, one of the worst-affected sectors due to the pandemic are preparing to return to the sea.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the industry lost about $4.5 trillion in revenue and 62 million jobs last year. Major cruise line recruitment firms reported that profits were down 70 percent from pre-pandemic levels and that the sector could take another year to recover.
“At the moment we have a very limited number of openings as we are mostly trying to deploy our returning crew who have been sitting at home. We are supplying crew for about 50 ships but with the travel restrictions, vaccination and different safety protocols for new crew, recovery will take some time,” said Mr. Mathew Dymtchev, Director of Operations at Odyssey International Maritime and Hotel Management.
While most Gulf industries have regained some sense of normalcy as the region holds the most vaccinated population in the world, tourism continues to bear the burden of the pandemic’s effects.
According to a market-wide poll of more than 1,000 professionals in the region, 52 percent of the respondents stated their company was operating in the ‘business as usual’ or ‘growth’ phases.
The Gulf Region, which includes Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and Oman, had become increasingly popular for cruise ships after becoming a major participant in the financial and oil sectors.
The Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal in Dubai is the world’s largest single-covered cruise port, capable of accommodating 14,000 passengers per day, although the terminal managed to handle 35,000 passengers in a single day in the 2019-2020 cruise season.
In early 2020, several onboard COVID-19 infections threw the industry into disarray, with the Diamond Princess being one of the hardest hit. The virus spread through guests onboard the 18-deck Princess Cruises ship when it was docked in Yokohama, Japan, infecting over 600 people and killing at least nine people.
Last month, UAE had announced that it will open its ports to cruise liners in September and that it has called for a series of activities to be implemented to enable a seamless return of the tourism industry.