Airfares are crazy, baggage handlers are on strike, and it’s 100 degrees outside. And this month, a tide of regulations, taxes, fees and protestors is asking people to please just stay away.
But nothing, it seems, will stem the tide of tourists this summer. Still, the world’s top destinations are hoping new provisions will make the crowds manageable—even if that means restricting access to those who can afford to pay up for the privilege of visiting.
Just this month, Norwegian Cruise Line cut a deal with the city of Venice to use motor boats to shuttle groups of passengers rather than parking its cruise ships too close; starting in January, the city also will institute a new tax for day-trippers. Barcelona capped the size of tour groups walking its streets and made the use of megaphones illegal, and anti-cruising protests recently made headlines in Norway. Marseille, the oldest city in France, introduced a tourist quota and reservation system to visit the famous Calanque de Sugiton, allowing only 500 visitors a day rather than the usual 3,000, and an Outside the Walls system that deploys 50 seasonal workers at the busiest tourist spots to manage the flow of people. Corsica capped the number of tourists allowed to visit the island; tourists to Lavezzi Islands, Restonica Valley and Bavella Needles must have a prior reservation.
Bhutan, which traditionally restricts the number of tourists in a given year, is upping its mandatory visitor’s fee from $65 USD to $200 per day. In Italy, the Amalfi Coast has restricted the number of tourist automobiles on its coastal road. Rome, Amsterdam and Dubrovnik are likewise considering measures aimed at moderating the crowds of tourists on their streets and at popular points of interest.
Domestic destinations not immune
In the United States, too, the locals in the most popular destinations are up in arms over the crowds. Two years of peaceful coexistence with nature during Covid lockdowns reminded many of the beauty of their quiet vistas—and this summer’s crazy surge of travelers has run headlong into a shorthanded service industry, making tourists more cranky, demanding, and unwelcome.
The national parks and our favorite vacation state of Hawaii have cut the crowds with mandatory registration systems. In Hawaii, visitors must get a number not just to visit Pearl Harbor, but also for Hanauma Bay, Haleakala at sunrise, Maui’s Waianapanapa State Park, Haena State Park on Kauai and Diamond Head on Oahu. Even the bar at Duke’s Waikiki is now reservations-only.
On the Great Lakes, members of the expanding cruise ship industry—including newcomer Viking Cruises, which is bringing the biggest ship, the 665-foot Viking Octantis, carrying 378 passengers—have already or are expected to soon agree to a series of sustainability initiatives in response to the increasing traffic.
In Glacier Bay, Alaska, the National Park Service has started an unannounced inspection system under which third-party inspectors will randomly board ships to monitor their compliance with environmental standards.
For travel advisors, meanwhile, the new regulations are one more thing to track, one more form to fill out—but also one more reason for customers to seek professional advice.
Some industry insiders predict destinations will come to rethink their decisions when they begin to feel the pinch of lost visitor revenues; others say the rules will just shift the crowds from one city to the next. Most customers will do what they must to get where they want to go—and by and large it is the destinations, not the customers, that are concerned.
“Like many things in today’s world, there is a group of clients and potential clients that take these concerns and causes to heart. I see a couple of hot buttons in a few of these anti-cruise posters that I am sure will make some reconsider,” says Dave Sobczak at Holiday Road Travel – Independent by Liberty Travel in Collegeville, PA. “I have to wonder though, if moving people to alternate ways to visit the country actually solves the problem, if there is in fact a problem.”
The cruise industry appears to be booming with 99% of ships sailing and with demand way up since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, the end of the CDC’s reporting program for ships, and the cessation of many of the vaccination protocols both on ships and in ports of call.
However, cruise lines now find themselves up against a rising tide of anti-cruise sentiment in Europe. Protesters are confronting passengers in some ports as the tourists disembark for shore excursions. The protesters complain about the crowds brought by the ships which are perceived as overwhelming the streets of cities like Dubrovnik, Venice, and Barcelona while spending very little money on food, goods, and services in those same locales.
Protests broke out in Norway this week at five different ports of call, with protesters confronting cruise passengers protesting the “environmental and social damage” caused by cruising. The protests are led by the anti-cruise group CruiseNotwelcome. Protesters and academics alike argue the cruise industry is a major source of environmental pollution. Posters in the Norwegian ports of call point out the cruise ships are registered under foreign flags, pay no local taxes, and flood the streets of the port towns.
Lot of these up in the harbour pic.twitter.com/Vimkutbvv1
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) July 16, 2022
Similar protests and issues have arisen in the United States, most notably in Key West.
In response to such criticisms, the cruise industry is undertaking major sustainability initiatives. In January of this year, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released its “2022 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook Report”. The report asserts the cruise industry has implemented progressive protocols and points to the value of cruise tourism to both local and national economies worldwide, and acknowledges and plots a course to achieving carbon neutrality.
A new summer experience awaits MSC Cruises’ guests as five of its ships added new packages for its East Mediterranean itineraries.
As demand for cruise trips surges and the CDC lifts most of the COVID-19 restrictions for cruises, several lines announced new travel packages hoping to entice tourists. On Monday, April 4, MSC Cruises announced an additional voyage opportunity both ashore and at sea.
MSC will upgrade its East Mediterranean summer sailings with its new ‘Stay and Cruise’ tour package. The program will give MSC Cruises’ guests the opportunity to explore the city of Athens, Greece, or Venice, Italy for two days before they set sail for the seven-night sea vacation.
The package includes several perks including 4-star hotel accommodation for two nights, luggage transfers from the hotel to the guests’ cabins, as well as a half-day city exploration. An option to add air travel is available as well and can be booked through MSC Cruises webpage.
“Up to two days spent in the magnificent cities of either Venice or Athens will be a fantastic prelude to our guests’ seven-night cruises in the East Mediterranean,” the Vice President – Global Sales, MSC Cruises said.
The travel package is available for guests onboarding MSC Cruises’ five ships, namely MSC Sinfonia, MSC Armonia, MSC Fantasia, MSC Musica, and MSC Lirica. It will be on sale by the end of April and can be booked via the luxury liner’s official website or through travel advisors.
The package will also be soon available for MSC Cruises’ U.S sailings from Miami and Orlando by the end of summer, while it will be added in summer 2023 for New York sailings.
If some of your clients love cruises, they may have promised themselves that – if they got through the COVID crisis unscathed – they’ll find some new places to visit. Here’s how you can help them fulfill these promises. Suggest some new places to explore and provide them with enough information to turn their dreams into reality. Read the rest of this entry »