When Joe Biden takes up the U.S. presidency he must make tough decisions about travel and cruise.
The cruise industry is at a make or break point in its existence. They are losing billions of dollars every month and there is only so long they can stay afloat.
The industry is a $150 billion global business creating 1.1 million direct jobs. The U.S.A. is the world’s biggest cruise market with over 14 million people cruising in 2019. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise suspensions have cost the U.S. economy over $25 trillion and 164,000 jobs.
It’s therefore important that it gets back up and running as soon as possible.
The Biden administration will face the difficult decision to allow cruise ships back into U.S. waters on March 1. This is a mere six weeks after his inauguration.
Most major cruise lines voluntarily agreed to the March 1st date. This is to allow them time to prepare for the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) brand new ‘Conditional Sail Order’.
Cruise lines are actively pushing towards the March 1 sail date and this is a test for the incoming administration.
Reasons cruising maybe be slower to return under the Biden administration
It’s no secret that current President Donald Trump has been a vocal supporter of the cruise industry throughout his presidency. Saying at a 2020 White House coronavirus task force briefing; “We can’t let the cruise lines go out of business.. .We have to save the companies”.
A few months ago the cruise industry was able to successfully lobby the Trump administration to overrule the CDC ‘No Sail Order’ extension.
Back in October top CDC experts wanted to extend the ban but were overruled by the White House “Coronavirus Task Force”, led by Vice President Mike Pence. This probably would have not happened in a Biden administration, who is a big supporter of relying on the science to deal with the pandemic.
Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said: “The CDC under Trump has been put in the back seat and muzzled, it will be a different picture with Biden.”
Biden is very reliant on science and this would give the CDC more power to close down cruise even further. This all means the CDC will likely have more clout in deciding when cruises will be safe again.
If Biden pushes back a return cruising, it would be a significant setback for an industry that has already spent months and a significant amount of money preparing to relaunch.
The CDC had banned cruising from U.S. ports last March. It will have been at least a year since cruise lines sail from the USA.
Some Democrats, such as U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, have spoken out against the resumption of U.S. cruise service. Particularly at a time when Covid-19 cases are again spiking.
Mr Blumenthal called cruises “Petri dish breeding grounds” for the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Mr Blumenthal is also a co-sponsor of a bill to strengthen medical safety standards on board passenger cruise ships.
Within the wider Democratic party, several governors are even pleading for a non-essential travel ban between their states. Putting a cruise return unlikely anytime soon.
Will Biden require vaccines for the cruise industry to return?
The vaccine is the way out of this pandemic. With vaccines now available, it could be a requirement for every person to have the vaccine before boarding a cruise ship. It’s an idea that’s gaining traction within the wider travel industry, with several airlines announcing it will be a requirement to fly.
Cruise lines could require a certificate to prove you have been vaccinated before you board. You may have to pay for your vaccine and certificate addition to the cost of a cruise.
The Biden administration will have the power to make vaccines requirement to cruise, but he will have to look at the legality of it.
The availability of the vaccine could also be an issue. It will take many months for it to be offered to non-priority individuals and rolled out to the whole population. In the USA, it is thought that by the start of summer 2021 the critical groups will be vaccinated.
On a positive note, Biden might be better organised at rolling out the vaccine.
After all, it is in the United States’ best interest to get the tourism and cruise industry back up and running. Due to its importance to the economy.
We can’t see Biden doing anything that drastic to put things back even further.
Other positives for the industry under Biden
Some other positives for the cruise industry could be the resumption of cruises to Cuba. Biden could restore the Obama-era policies on travel to Cuba.
In June 2019, the Trump administration reversed the rules on travel to Cuba. The ban on cruising in Cuba took effect so suddenly that ships en-route to the island were forced to turn around.
Cruises to Cuba were extremely popular with over 800,000 passengers booked at the time of the ban.
At the end of the day, Presidents are many times measured by their first 100 days in office. The whole travel industry and people who like to cruise and travel will be watching to see how he deals with the situation. It’s going to be a difficult job,
While President-elect Joe Biden and his coronavirus team have not released their positions on the cruise industry, we hope that it will be a positive outcome.