GoCruise & Travel specialist Ian Warren discusses his experiences during the pandemic and examines what this year could bring for the cruise sector.
Wow, what a 12 months that was. As the saying goes, ‘if I knew then what I know now…’.
I work for myself and specialise in cruise, so for much of the time I was working harder and for very little income. As well as cancelling bookings, I was transferring as many as possible and at the beginning it was difficult to contact some suppliers, as they got to grips with the situation.
As the year went on, there were more rounds of cancellations, but I was still chasing refunds and FCCs from the earlier cancellations. Like many other agents, I am very grateful to the operators who not only did the best they could for my clients but also protected some or all my commission. They will be remembered.
However, there were quite a few bookings where I had to repay commissions. I did qualify for the government SEISS payments, which was a great help, but I know many agents fell outside the parameters so didn’t receive anything.
I have checked my database and the last time one of my customers went abroad on holiday was in early March 2020. The next ones to depart will be late April 2021 at the earliest, but more likely it will be May or even June.
My main concern over the coming weeks is how many of the bookings I transferred from 2020 to 2021 will now have to be transferred again. Even my own holiday, a tour to the Isle of Man, which I transferred from April 2020 to April 2021, is looking very unlikely.
Fingers crossed for 2021 and 2022
Many of my customers fall into two distinct sections. First, those who had already booked their 2021 cruise, or have transferred their 2020 cruise to 2021, and are unlikely to book a second cruise for this year. The best I can hope for is that they book soon for 2022.
The second is those who have nothing booked yet and are desperate to cruise as soon as they can. However, they are waiting to get their vaccination and/or see when cruising gets started again.
Having said that, I have noticed enquiries pick up over the last week or two, including some for the more expensive cruises. Perhaps this is a sign that many people have decided they aren’t earning much by keeping their money in the bank and that life is for living, so they want to make the most of things when they can travel again.
When cruising does restart, at least for the initial period, the experience is going to be different, with face coverings, social distancing, no buffets, and so on. Only time will tell how experienced cruisers take to the new normal, although I feel that most will be so pleased to be back on board that they will be happy [with the changes].
Personally, I can’t wait to get back to sea. I produce ship videos for my YouTube channel whenever I am on board, be it a holiday, fam trip or just a day visit. Last year I only managed to make one video, following an overnight stay on Scarlet Lady in Liverpool.
Hopefully the second half of 2021 will provide more opportunities. I have a family cruise booked for August and I recently won a Fred Olsen cruise on the Cruise Trade News advent calendar competition, which will be for later this year.
Fingers crossed that 2021 and 2022 will bring better news and increased business for all in the travel trade.