'The cruise industry is probably our biggest competitor': Sandals Executive

Throughout the pandemic, most cruise ships found themselves forced to suspend operations. Two years later, one tourism executive says the cruise industry is finally beginning to recover.

“The cruise industry is probably our biggest competitor,” said Sandals Resorts Executive Chairman Adam Stewart on a recent episode of Influencers with Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer. “I think the cruise industry has done an incredible job in the recovery to inspire confidence of its consumers."

Sandals has 24 properties in eight countries including, Antigua, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Curaçao and Turks & Caicos. Stewart highlighted the symbiotic relationship between the hospitality and cruise industries.

“The ecosystem of tourism in the Caribbean simply doesn't work without cruise,” Stewart told Yahoo Finance. “It is the coming together of the farmers and the fishers and the entertainers and the taxi drivers. And who brings them together are the land-based tourism operators like Sandals Resorts International. And the cruise industry has a large part to do with it.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: The Coral Princess docks at Circular Quay on July 13, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. The Coral Princess, currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak on board, arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
The Coral Princess docks at Circular Quay on July 13, 2022 in Sydney, Australia (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Last summer, cruise ships began setting sail again after more than a year of lockdowns. According to a recent survey by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), as reported by CNN, more than 75% of ships returned to service, with all expected to return to sea by summer.

CLIA also forecasts that passenger numbers will increase above pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. Although it's on its way to recovery, the cruise industry has suffered from setbacks, including steep labor shortages that led to canceled voyages. Additionally, customers found themselves frustrated by evolving travel restrictions.

"Cruise has not fully recovered. They are being somewhat prejudiced, I believe, generally by the consumer," Stewart added. “I think they run strong safety standards overall, but they did have a very difficult run."

The cruise industry is expected to continue implementing pandemic-driven protocols such as vaccination mandates, pre-cruise testing, advanced ventilation systems, and deep-cleaning protocols.

“And I know that they are working tirelessly to try re-instill that confidence and to get their ships full again and sailing through the Caribbean,” said Stewart. “And the Caribbean countries, speaking with my Caribbean national hat on, we're waiting for them to come with open arms.”

Dylan Croll is a reporter and researcher at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol.

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