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Is taking a cruise vacation about to become embarrassing?

PortandTerminal.com, October 4, 2019

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – According to Reuters, one in five travellers is flying less as “flight shaming” propels travellers to shun air travel for the sake of the planet. Some are calling it the “Greta Effect” after the young 16-year-old Greta Thunberg famously sailed to New York City last month instead of flying.

Environmental activist, Greta Thunberg on her way across the Atlantic Ocean by sailboat headed to New York City

Scandinavian airline SAS AB has seen passenger traffic shrink 2% this year, while Sweden’s airport operator said it handled 9% fewer passengers for domestic flights this year than in 2018. Both have blamed ‘flight shame’.

What about cruising? Is it any less vulnerable to the same type of pressure environmentally conscious consumers are putting on air travel these days?

We think that the cruise industry is even more vulnerable to consumers abandoning it due to environmental concerns . Here are three reasons why.

1. Cruising is a dirty business

It turns out that cruising is just as polluting as air travel for the environment and possibly even more so according to some.

Cruise ships are essentially floating cities, and many of them produce as much pollution as one. In 2016, the Pacific Standard reported that “each passenger’s carbon footprint while cruising is roughly three times what it would be on land.”

The cruise industry has long been under pressure to reduce environmental impacts ranging from waste disposal to air pollution, as well as high emissions – not only from travel but also from powering all the on-board facilities.

Cruising falls in similar territory to flying in terms of emissions.

Carnival Corporation and plc, which owns nine cruise lines, says its 104 ships emit an average of 251g of carbon dioxide equivalent per “available lower berth” per kilometre.

While the figures are not directly comparable, they suggest cruising falls in similar territory to flying in terms of emissions.

2. “A plague of locusts” – Cruise ships unwelcome at some major destinations

No tourist on holiday visiting a new city wants to feel unwelcome. That though is exactly what many cruise ship passengers are becoming at some major destinations. Unwelcome visitors.

There has been a big cruise ship and tourism backlash in a number of major European destinations over the past year and we don’t see it diminishing.

The MSC Magnifica cruise in the Venice Lagoon on June, as people take to the water for the annual Vogalonga rowing regatta

Following a number of incidents and close calls with massive cruise ships visiting Venice, the “No Grandi Navi” movement erupted in protest, demanding a stop to large cruise ships calling on the city.

Italy’s transport minister Danilo Toninelli announced in June 2019 that all big cruise ships will be banned from docking in Venice’s historic centre from September 2019 after the harbour collision earlier this year. 

In 2018, a record 8.3 million tourists visited Bruges – an increase of 900,000 from 2017. Six million of these were cruise tourists.

The picturesque city of Brugges in Belgium has also put into place measures to limit the number of cruise ships visiting it.

“We have to control the influx more if we don’t want it to become a complete Disneyland here.” 

The Belgian government-enforced regulations to cut down on the number of cruise ships docking at the Zeebrugge port from five per day to just two. The reason is that many shops have been replaced by those who cater to tourists only selling chocolate and beer.

Bruges mayor Dirk De fauw told newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: “We have to control the influx more if we don’t want it to become a complete Disneyland here.” 

Venice and Bruges are not the only examples of locals putting into place measures to ban or at limit visits by cruise ships to their cities. Dubrovnik, Dublin, Amsterdam, Santorini and Barcelona have all put into place measures to curb cruise ship tourism to their cities.

One Spanish politician compared cruise passengers to “a plague of locusts” who devour the public space and leave. Ouch.

3. Giving up cruising wouldn’t be that hard

Air travel is more of a necessity than cruising will ever be. No one NEEDS to take a cruise vacation. To completely give up air travel though would be a major hardship for millions of people. Especially for those who rely upon it to stay connected with loved ones who live abroad.

There is something wildly unnecessary about a cruise that makes it both appealing and offensive. But will the younger generations of consumers continue to take cruises as the environmental and social pressure not to becomes louder?

Generation Z is set to become the largest consumer generation by the year 2020—outpacing even Millennials

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) 2019 Cruise Trends & Industry Outlook

According to Forbes, Generation Z is “composed of those born between 1995 and 2010”. Today’s Generation Z is aged between 24 years and 9 years of age. That places the wildly popular and influential Ms. Greta Thunberg squarely in the Gen Z generation.

5,000 to 8,000 students and highschoolers marched for the climate in Paris. They were asking for a more ambitious climate policy. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg led this particular march in order to draw attention to climate change.

Somehow we don’t see Greta Thurberg cruising anytime soon and neither will the young people demanding climate change alongside her either.

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