A new subcommittee on travel and tourism convened for the first time on Tuesday and immediately called for the US government to start enabling stakeholders to rebuild the United States cruise industry. An industry that has been suffering in 2020, and 2021.
On the agenda were several questions from lawmakers, including opening up international inbound travel restrictions and taking steps to enable the tourism industry to open up and the cruise industry to start sailing as soon as possible. There was some Criticism against the CDC director due to the fact she didn’t have a clue and went back on her word on getting cruises restarted.
The cruise industry will be a vital part of rebuilding the tourism industry, something more and more lawmakers are starting to understand, while the discussion is turning to a new, harsher, page right now.
Senator Dan Sullivan: CDC Director Walensky “Didn’t Really Have a Clue”
The discussion is becoming harsher as each day without cruises continues. While Alaska has been doing reasonably well during the Pandemic, the issues that are affecting the state are starting to grate on Senator Dan Sullivan:
“The CDC does a good job on science. They’ve had a tough year, and are an important agency. My state has worked hard dealing with the health issues. We’ve been the number one state in the country throughout the pandemic in terms of testing per capita, in terms of the vaccination rates per capita.”
“We are proud of that in Alaska. Fortunately, we have one of the lowest death rates per capita, but my state’s economy is getting crushed. Oil and gas, no help from the biden administration there, which is anti-oil and gas. Commercial fishing, and tourism as well. It has hurt so many industries.”
According to Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, a significant factor to this is that the CDC Director is apparently clueless on the issues that are going on. The Senator is involved in the recently announced CRUISE Act along with Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to overrule the CDC. Sullivan said:
“Senator Murkowski and I had a meeting with the CDC director a couple of weeks ago. With all due respect to her she didn’t really have a clue on these issues. We had another follow-up meeting with her recently.
She gave us a lot of good news, all of the guidance on the cruise ships was going to be coming out at the same time. There was going to be a need for new CDC approvals, cruising in America and Alaska by mid-july is what she thought we could do.”
Of course, cruising by now seems to be unlikely for Alaska in July, unless we see a 180° turn from the CDC. In fact, Alaska Governer Mike Dunleavy recently said that the state could sue the CDC if no positive dialogue comes. Sullivan does have some advice for the CDC though:
None of that turned out to be true. So that is o for 2 on meetings with US senators. I think somebody on her staff needs to be held accountable. She is obviously getting really, really bad information from people, and it is really disappointing.
The CDC director seems to be not the only one who is misinformed on the issues at hand. Representative Peter DeFazio said last year the cruise lines don’t pay taxes in the US and will not receive any government aid. However, the economies of Florida, Alaska, and Washington would disagree on this.
Florida alone lost more than $3 billion in direct income from the cruise industry, while 50,000 jobs were lost, according to the Federal Maritime Commission.
Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said this:
“The CDC’s recent decision to extend the 2020 ‘conditional sail order’ effectively eliminates any potential for a 2021 cruise ship sailing season, and places the future of thousands of Alaskan families’ businesses in peril.”
In the meantime, thousands of people have been scrambling for a living while the CDC and lawmakers go into increasing discussions on how to resume travel, tourism, and cruises. Something those working in the cruise industry, airline industry, hotels, retail, tour, and travel industry will see as pointless when all they want to do is go back to work.
International Travel Will Boost the Industry
Whether through sea or air, international travel will be a vital component of the roadway to recovery. While the travel sector was on the way to set another record year before the pandemic arrived, the last 12 months have taken all that away.
Tourism-dependent states like Florida, Nevada, Alaska, and Washington have been hit particularly badly and have traditionally relied largely on international tourism.
According to Tori Barnes, the executive vice president for the US travel association, there has been a hesitant reaction so far:
“There is a hesitancy to create a roadmap to reopen international travel. There is no cabinet-level position that focuses on tourism. We think leadership is needed,”
Although the CDC has now said US citizens can travel freely abroad if they are fully vaccinated, foreign tourists have no mandate to come to the US. Something the cruise lines, in particular, will be hoping for as soon as possible.
Although the US market is traditionally the most extensive market for the US, European and South American guests are becoming a major factor. With that, the cruise lines will want to start working with various homeports outside of the US in combination with US homeports as soon as possible.