With more than 10 lines forced to cancel cruises in Asia, local travel agents are bracing for a significant slowdown.
The outbreak of Covid-19 continues to paralyse Asia’s cruise industry, with multiple lines deserting Asia and re-deploying ships to other parts of the world.
Lines like Royal Caribbean have cancelled a total of 18 sailings in Asia, whilst Dream Cruises recently halted Genting Dream’s Singapore sailings till end March. Sapphire Princess’ Singapore and Asia season has also been cancelled.
Consequently, travel agents in Singapore have been adversely affected. Big agencies like Chan Brothers and Dynasty Travel have witnessed numerous customer cancellations on existing itineraries.
“The current news coverage on thousands on board a cruise liner (Diamond Princess) being quarantined has certainly created ‘strong waves’, noted Alicia Seah, Director, Public Relations & Communications at Dynasty Travel.
She adds that news reports of the ongoing outbreak have caused concern amongst customers, resulting in cancellations for cruise packages in Asia. Fly-cruise sales are affected too, especially for cruises scheduled to depart in the first half of 2020.
“However, river cruise sales remain stable with no cancellation at this juncture − customers who have booked such cruises are proceeding with their holidays,” said Seah.
Fellow mega agency Chan Brothers has also witnessed cancellations for cruises within Asa.
“Some cancellations are due to changes in ports of calls,” observes Victoria Chong, Marketing Communications Executive at Chan Brothers Travel. “For example, cruise lines like Celebrity have replaced ports of calls in Singapore with Dubai.”
Chong adds that there has been no evident impact on bookings for cruises to and from non-Asian destinations.
Given the volatile situation, both agencies predict that business will continue to take a significant hit.
“Chan Brother is expecting business to drop by at least 30 per cent for the next 4 months,” Chong said. “This also includes June, which has otherwise been a busy season for travel due to the mid-year school holiday.”
Similarly, Dynasty Travel is bracing for a slowdown in the first and possibly second quarter of 2020. Due to weak overall travel demand, the agency forecasts sales to be down by 40 to 50% compared to the same time last year.
“We are hopeful that the situation will stabilise by May or June,” said Seah. “If so, recovery will take place by the 3rd and last quarter of 2020.”
She is hesitant to express too much optimism though, saying, “There is still uncertainty over how long the virus will last, and if it will lead to a protracted economic downturn and low demand throughout 2020.”
At present, both agencies are also working hard to tend to customers affected by altered cruise itineraries, as well as those who wish to cancel existing sailings.
“There are costs already incurred by travel agencies, such as deposits paid up front to secure cabins,” said Seah. “Any cancellations or postponement of travel itineraries are thus subjected to terms and conditions stipulated. However, travel agencies will try to appeal and mitigate the best solutions for our customers. “
Chong added, “We place utmost priority on customer safety and are closely monitoring the situation. We’re hopeful that the coronavirus situation would be contained with relentless nationwide and worldwide efforts.”