Restoring confidence in the cruise tourism industry, hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks and a downturn in public perception, will be challenging according to a Griffith University expert.

Dr Sarah Gardiner is the Deputy Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism and is a published researcher on travel consumer behaviour, experience design and innovation.

Deputy Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism Dr Sarah Gardiner said consumers will want to see evidence of change after the fallout of several high-profile incidents involving cruise ships.

“Health and safety procedures onboard ships will be front of mind for consumers, particularly the ability of crews to respond to and manage any future health crisis,’’ she said.

“Give people peace of mind that they will be looked after no matter where they are in the world. Consumers will want to see changes and communicating those changes will be vital.”

Social distancing has forced Australians indoors but Dr Gardiner expects an uptick in travel demand on par with the post-World War II travel boom once restrictions and travel bans are eased.

“Rebuilding the cruise industry is strategically important to rebuilding the tourism industry.”

“How quickly the tourism industry will recover is difficult to determine. Simple discounting will not be enough to restore consumer confidence.

“But rebuilding the cruise industry is strategically important to rebuilding the tourism industry. It is an important part of Australia’s tourism industry particularly for regional and remote destinations.”

According to the 2017-18 Australian Cruise Industry Economic Impact Assessment the industry generates $4.8 billion dollars for the Australian economy.

The Cruise Lines International Association also estimates 1 in 17 Australians took a cruise in 2018, representing 5.8% of the population.

Post-pandemic travellers will have different expectations

Dr Gardiner said the insurance industry will also need to play its part by improving the insurance cover travellers receive when they get sick abroad.

“Post-pandemic travellers will also expect some flexibility with their bookings, such as getting a refund should circumstances change or if you simply change your mind.”

She said travelling on cruise ships is unlike any other form of travel on the market and cruise operators will need to work with destination partners to rebuild the public’s trust.

“Once those health and safety processes are in place, sophisticated and sensitive marketing campaigns will be needed to remind consumers why they love this mode of tourism and that it is safe to voyage again.”