Travel has its challenges, and the growing anti-tourism sentiment is one of them, affecting cruise ships just as much as land tourists.
As more people than ever choose to travel the world, some popular destinations are pushing back to encourage more tourists.
Whether it’s limiting the number of cruise ships that can visit in a day or banning ships from city centers, anti-tourism is a major concern for Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty.
Speaking on board the Celebrity Ascent, Mr Liberty was asked what he believed to be the biggest threat to the cruise industry.
“There are parts of the world where the volume of travelers visiting these places creates a local sense of anti-tourist movement,” was what he responded with first.
He was also quick to point out that cruise ships don’t necessarily cause this reaction. He mentioned Airbnb as an example of something else causing increased tourist numbers.
European cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice have recently rid their city centers of cruise ships.
Venice banned cruise ships in 2021 and went so far as to introduce an entrance fee of €3 to €10 to enter the city and its islands to reduce visitor numbers.
In Amsterdam, they voted to ban cruise ships from entering the city after launching a “discouraging campaign” that did things like ban outdoor marijuana smoking in the red light district and put up posters around the city telling young British men to “stay away.”
As for cruise ships, Amsterdam authorities say that cruise ships in the city “do not fit into the task of combating mass tourism and are not in line with the city’s sustainable ambitions”.
The forecast of the World Tourism Organization is that by the end of this decade the flow of international tourists will exceed two billion.
To address this, Mr Liberty sees a changing game plan, “we have to be sensitive to make sure we continue to diversify our destinations. We need to keep building amazing concepts like Perfect Days and Beach Clubs etc. in our brands.”
He also said the company needs to keep its ear to the ground, “making sure we’re really good listeners in our community and building our communities that support us.”
Reducing their carbon footprint
The other threat Mr. Liberty sees is environmental.
“The second thing I think is that we’re all, you know, we’re all trying to figure it out, which is how do we decarbonize or how do we get to a net-zero base,” he said in response to the initial question.
Companies all over the world are looking for solutions to reach carbon neutrality and Royal Caribbean Group is no stranger to this task, “we spend hours around the clock trying to figure out how to solve this. And so we need to make sure we’re on a path to prepare to use alternative fuels when they become available.”
The company already has a plan in place to be carbon neutral by 2050, known as “Destination Net Zero.”
Announced in 2021, it has two main goals: to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and to have a net zero emissions cruise ship by 2035.
To achieve this, you don’t have to do one thing, but a series of steps. As an example, the company has experimented with the use of biofuels on some of its ships.
Royal Caribbean Group said it plans to continue using alternative low-carbon fuel as part of its overall plan.
In addition to biofuels, Royal Caribbean Group is building ships that can use liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to reduce emissions.
Although the issues Mr. Liberty raised are challenging, he sees a very positive outlook for cruises.
He sees high demand for a cruise vacation, “the headwinds for cruising from a demographic standpoint, from a world trends standpoint, from a population standpoint are really exceptional compared to other forms of travel and other and other forms of where people are spending their consumer discretionary dollars. “
“The propensity to cruise is always high,” he explained.
“With the younger generations coming in, as people started to start more families and multi-generational families, as people have more time, whether that’s through retirement, more discretionary funds and most of all, as we’ve sort of gone through Covid, we’ve all really appreciated what we have.”