Jan. 13’s wreck of the Costa Concordia has already splashed the Web with the kinds of images (like, say, a 112,000-ton ship lying on its side) that cruise operators would rather the traveling public not see. But apart from Carnival Cruise Lines’ partially sunken stock price, there’s further evidence that the disaster may have repercussions for the $40 billion cruise industry.
A poll of 1,500 travel agents by Travalliance revealed last week that nearly a quarter of customers who’ve booked a cruise have expressed “a high level of concern” about the safety of ships, and 10 percent of 2012 ticket holders are interested in cancelling.
Travalliance CEO Mark Murphy said that cruise business—and Carnival in particular—only has itself to blame for these numbers by failing to reach out to the public with messages of reassurance. “In terms of public relations, I’ve seen almost zero,” he said. Of the travel agents surveyed, 42 percent rated the industry response as “fair to poor.” Murphy added that it would be logical for the cruise lines to conduct outreach via their travel agents since 70 percent of bookings come through them. But “communication has ground to a halt,” he said.
Meanwhile, Carnival’s PR efforts have consisted of one statement (released five days after the accident) and five tweets from CEO Micky Arison, who has yet to appear at the wreck site. At press time, neither Norwegian nor Royal Caribbean has issued any statements to address concerns about ship safety.