End to a Pandemic Year and Looking Forward to What’s Ahead

Who among us isn’t thrilled that 2020 has mercifully come to an end? To say it’s been an awful, challenging, heartbreaking, stressful, confusing, unpredictable, horrible year would be an understatement. Now that it’s come to an end, what’s next?  What does 2021 hold?

To start, a vaccine has been developed and administration has begun, and though we’re a long way from having significant numbers of people vaccinated, there is a vaccine and inoculations have started. The fact that we started 2020 facing a global pandemic and ended 2020 with a vaccine is, frankly, miraculous. With the focus now on vaccine distribution, all eyes are on 2021 and the big question is: “when can we get back to ‘normal’?”

For travel and hospitality, “normal” means restaurants and cafes, bars and pubs, hotels and  resorts, theme and amusement parks, flights and cruise ships are full.  It was expected that for these industries, 2021 would be focused on recovery.  There are solid indicators that a strong recovery is underway.  From Royal Caribbean’s test cruises generating hundreds of thousands of volunteers, to the booking demand for cruises – particularly world cruises – there is good reason to be optimistic about the future of travel.

USA Today reported that Bari Golin-Blaugrund, Vice President of Strategic Communications for CLIA, stated: “Our data shows that cruisers are eager to cruise again and are willing to follow stringent public health measures in order to return to sailing.”  In a poll, 90% of cruisers said they would wear a mask.  “People have grown accustomed to taking such precautions on land and understand it is a small sacrifice to make in order to experience the joy of cruising while maintaining a focus on the health and safety of oneself and others.”  Although most cruise lines have cancelled sailings through April 2021, all major brands report strong bookings for the second half of the year.  In spite of the abysmal year that was 2020, 16 new ships were delivered in 2020 and thirty are expected to be delivered in 2021.  The order book for 2021 is so diverse that the ships being delivered range in capacity from 100 to 5,200 guests.  It’s a clear testament to the health of this industry.  Let’s not forget that multiple segments of the hospitality and travel/tourism benefit from the cruise industry, so it’s not a stretch to say that the cruise industry has a robust section of cheer leaders.

As for the annual marquis events so critical to the travel industry, Insider Travel Report published a list of the top travel trade events for 2021, signaling optimism for a return to these all-important B2B events.  They also published a list of the top hotels in the U.S. opening in 2021, and a list of 5 new hotel openings around the world that are generating buzz.  Sandals and Beaches launched a huge New Year’s sale to entice travelers to book.  In fact, some Caribbean hotels and resorts reported higher than expected numbers, and although nowhere near what it was in the “before times” it’s still cause for optimism.

The rebound of these sectors will create much needed employment opportunities for countless people who lost jobs, and while we are still trying to cope with the fallout of 2020, there is good reason for optimism in 2021.  Corporations and professional trade organizations have been crunching the numbers and analyzing data, and there’s every reason to look forward with enthusiasm.  But make no mistake, there’s a lot of work to do.  We’re ready!  Let this recovery begin!

This post was written by cruise marketing expert, Shannon McKee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.

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