Carnival Cruise Lines saw a 200 percent year-over-year spike in sales recently when the company announced it will set sail again this August with massive discounts for travelers willing to give it a try.
However, the glut of travelers signing on may not mean all vacationers are willing to look past the glut of problems the industry faced at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Rafat Ali, founder and CEO Skift, a travel industry media and research company.
One of the largest initial clusters was centered on a Princess Cruises ship docked in Japan. After that, ships full of passengers were stranded at sea as country after country refused to let them dock for fear infected passengers would spread the disease within their borders.
Ali told Cheddar that the real test for the industry will come from those travelers who are not ride-or-die fans of cruises.
"I think the public sentiment, beyond just the cruisers, will matter a lot. Meaning if there's a huge backlash against cruises from people who don't cruise, but can make a lot of noise, I think the cruise industry will probably have to rethink in terms of when they reopen," said Ali. "August is what they have said. It depends on where the world is then."
However, he acknowledges that cruises may have an opportunity to draw in a younger consumer now, despite generally appealing to an older crowd.
"I think they are more keen -- the vouchers and the offers that they have, in terms of how cheap it is, make them prone to August to going on those," he said.
Skift recently published a report about the impact on the hotel industry after crises like SARS and 9/11 and, like others in the travel industry, found that a coordinated effort will be key.
"I think the biggest thing that we've learned, which hadn't happened until now, is a coordinated response to the pandemic. I think that a coordinated response to the reopenings, which there are hopeful signs that it is happening, I think is the biggest thing that will help the hotel industry, the travel industry, and the airline industry," said Ali.
So far, though, there are mixed expectations about where travelers will feel safest when they hit the road.
"The people who were predisposed to Airbnb will continue to be predisposed," he said. "I think short-term rentals in remote settings, where you will travel with your own hygiene and cleaning products, is the one traveler change you will definitely see."
However, many hotels have adopted technology, such as kiosks, to make visitors' stay safer and more convenient. Ali also says he believes that hotels will implement other technology that will allow visitors and staff to social distance.
"I think mobile keys, which hadn't been adopted as much as you would have thought so far, I think those have become a real possibility. I think back of the house changes, in terms of how to manage people that do the cleaning and operations will change as well," he said.