AFTA View – February 2012

What will be the impact of the Costa Concordia tragedy on cruise growth?

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Jason WestburyWhat will be the impact of the Costa Concordia
tragedy on cruise growth?

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents


AS the travel industry copes with yet another shaky start to 2012, looking in amazement at the images of Costa Concordia perched on the rocks off the island of Giglio in Italy, we need to take a deep breath.

Given all the natural and man-made disasters of 2011, I am sure, like me, everyone was hopeful that 2012 would be less eventful. It would appear this is not going to be the case unfortunately.

Early reports in relation to inter-national cruise bookings indicate that there will be an impact on consumers’ booking habits and perhaps intentions in a negative direction as a result of this accident.

While the Australian reports so far appear to be moderate in terms of the impact, it is too early to tell if there will be a more significant impact on the global cruise industry. For travel agents this is not good news. Cruise has been the “golden egg” in terms of the growth and support provided by the cruise companies to travel agents.

As we watch the response by the cruise companies and the messages that get to the Australian media, I am most hopeful that, while the tragic event will be long remembered and of course the lives lost never forgotten, the stories and images will fade and people will move on. And just as importantly move back on board ships to take a cruise.

While this accident made for very good television at the time, things do seem to be moving on for now. I guess the next big challenge will be when decisions are made about Costa Concordia’s final resting place. No doubt this will re-ignite the international media’s attention.

On a more domestic topic, the Queensland state election has now been called for the March 24, almost one year to the day from the NSW Election in 2011. It does appear that the odds are against a win to the sitting Premier, but as they say in politics anything can happen so it is one that I will be watching with a close eye.

The consumer protection review process continues and Queensland exercises an important influence over the outcome, so it will be most important to the travel industry to know soon who we will be dealing with in the future.

The existing minister responsible for consumer affairs in Queensland, the Hon Paul Lucas, is not restanding in the March election, as he is retiring from politics.

So no matter what the result we will have a new Minister in Queensland.

The good news is regardless of the result, there are no more state elections planned for 2012 so this year should enable us to galvanise the policy efforts and get a final, clear and concise decision about the way the travel industry is to be regulated into the future.

• On a final note, it is that time of the year again when the “NTIA madness” begins. Nominations will be open this month and once again I wish everyone who gets involved all the best this year. The event will be held on Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Sydney.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.





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