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Virgin Voyages’ Shane Riley: ‘The darkest hour comes before the dawn’

virgin voyages, shane riley, cruise, travel

Virgin Voyages associate vice-president of international sales Shane Riley explains why the cruise sector’s diversity can help it bounce back in 2021.

It’s hard to believe that it was only earlier this year when Scarlet Lady lit up Dover and Liverpool for her hotly anticipated arrival. Back then many of us would have assumed that Covid-19 would remain a distant threat.

Well fast forward to now and I couldn’t be prouder to be flying the Virgin Voyages flag as we get ready to set sail on our maiden voyage when the time is right.

They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going and the crisis has allowed Virgin Voyages to demonstrate just how well we will take care of our guests before they even step aboard Scarlet Lady, through offering the option of a full refund, 25 per cent future voyage credit, or the option to double their money by taking an industry leading 200 per cent future voyage credit.

For our travel agent partners we wanted to reward their loyalty by launching our Brilliant To Do Business With promise. This includes a significant commission increase to support agents with rebuilding their business. As we’ve seen, booking with a professional agent is more important than ever.

Reasons to believe

We’ve seen additional protocols being put in place across the entire sector. Health and safety is not something we (the cruise lines) compete on. There is always an opportunity to learn from each other and share ideas.

Every new protocol is welcome news and another step forward in reassuring passengers that the industry will take great care of them when the time is right to lift those anchors and set sail.

As a new brand with new hardware, we are in a fortunate position that our mid-sized ships are equipped with the latest technology. Some things that we designed to offer an exceptional experience now lend themselves well to travelling in a socially distanced world.

For example, there is the Sailor app and wearable device (The Band), which allow passengers to join virtual queues and enjoy their experience contactless. Much has been said about our lack of buffet, but the no self-serve dining options is a real win right now.

We’ve also learnt about new technologies such as AtmosAir, an advanced air filtration system that eliminates 99.9 per cent of viruses from the air, which we will now retrofit to all of our ships.

The industry also has many aces up its sleeve. Even in the depths of the darkest months our research showed that 55 per cent of cruisers at that very moment would get on a ship.

The second is that cruise is not a commodity. It doesn’t have sameness; it has diversity and differentiation. The third ace is transparency – the industry is incredibly well regulated, all illness reported and new protocols well documented and available for guests to see.

As the saying goes, the darkest hour comes before the dawn and I believe the industry will have a bright dawn. The time to sail will come again and we’ll be counting down every moment.

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