With travel bans and social distancing enforced following the coronavirus scare, the travel industry easily received one of the hardest blows. "Taking a snapshot of tourism losses is difficult, as the data changes as quickly as the virus spreads," wrote National Geographic's Elizabeth Becker. She cited World Travel and Tourism Council's projection of major travel companies worldwide losing 75 million jobs and USD 2.1 trillion in revenue should the situation worsen. "Losses come daily," Becker continued, noting the United States beset with the worst case scenario.
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The cruise industry, in particular, found itself in the thick of the catastrophe. This, first with British-registered Diamond Princess put on quarantine in Yokohama, Japan, that would carry around 700 COVID-19 cases like an omen. Thousands of cases have since been tallied with around 100 deaths—all linked to cruise ships. As the industry tightens in embattlement, passengers, crew, and investors have recently sued Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines—giants owning 75% of the global cruise market—following on-board outbreaks. History had just reiterated how travel, technology, and the spread of diseases are all interlinked.
It's a sad year for the cruise industry, really. Filipino cruise workers likely share the same sentiment, with around half of 130,000 of our own crew members jobless until the end of 2020. But, as a report on The Washington Post stressed, there are also deep-rooted issues along the lines of international maritime structure and social responsibility that cruise companies should face en route to the industry's full economic recovery.
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Amid this, some cruise lines have taken the prudent route by upping its safety standards. One close to home is Hong Kong-headquartered Genting Cruise Lines, announcing its various precautionary measures that do observe regional government policies and most likely make way to a cruising experience far different from before.
Its "stringent health screening processes and protocols prior to embarkation and disembarkation" will mean online check-ins, temperature checks, staggered schedule of arrival to avoid congestion, and requirement of doctor's certification for guests 70 years old and above to travel. Meticulous sanitations of accommodations and amenities will translate to frequent disinfections of rooms, common public areas, shops, and restaurants/bars up to 10 times daily. Speaking of restaurants, aside from enforced sanitization, it will have guests use disposable utensils, pick from a menu with no wild animals or products from highly affected regions on it, and seat in ample spaces on site. It will house any suspected case in isolated wards at the clinic, one also ready with masks, protective equipment, and hospital-grade disinfectants. The cabins will be converted into quarantine rooms if worse comes to worst.
Genting especially mentioned the company's most noteworthy feature to this new normal: "100% external fresh air" purified through air filters and cooling coils "thoroughly checked, cleaned and replaced to ensure healthy air quality." To further address congestion and lessen risks on its manpower, it also reduced the crew while equipping and workshopping the ones left with further info on health and safety.
Understanding most travelers' fear to cruise in the meantime, Genting has launched “Cruise As You Wish.” The program allows cancelation of all new and existing Dream Cruises and Star Cruises prior to or on October 30, 2020 up to 48 hours before sailing. It, in turn, awards canceling guests 100% future cruise credit to be redeemed on or before March 31 next year.
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If anything, Genting's strictly enforced measures and the likes are commendable. But to the common, anxious traveler, with no vaccine in sight, these efforts might be too small next to the paranoia and bad rap now haunting what used to be a luxury-filled thrill. It does, however, paint a picture of what's ahead in traveling in general. The bad news now is that it's bleak, but the good news we are all anticipating will hopefully lead us all again back to the stuff of dreams.
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Photos courtesy of Genting Cruise Lines