Hopes for return of cruise liner trade as Covid rules relax

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Ralph Riegel

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions next month will be critical to helping the €70m-a-year Irish cruise liner trade recover for the 2022 season.

Almost 100 cruise liners are booked to visit Ireland over the coming season – with tourism officials saying 2022 will be of crucial importance for the hospitality and entertainment sectors given the horrific losses suffered from the pandemic over the last two years.

The cruise trade is Ireland’s highest per capita spending element of the tourism economy – but was devastated within weeks of Covid-19 erupting early in 2020.

Now, port officials are hopeful that with Covid-19 restrictions easing, Ireland’s high level of vaccination and predictions of a strong recovery in the tourism sector this summer, Ireland will win back valuable lost business.

Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton indicated that 95 cruise liners had provisionally booked to visit Dublin Port this year.

A total of 28 liners are set to berth in the port while a further 67 will anchor in Dublin Bay.

The Port of Cork has not yet clarified its liner bookings for the coming season but it is also expecting a strong recovery.

All visits will be subject to Government and EU Covid-19 policies.

Major cruise line operators, including P&O, Saga and Virgin, have indicated they intend to press ahead with cruises in Europe this summer – but only for fully vaccinated passengers.

Cruise officials hope the industry can return to the growth rate it enjoyed before the pandemic erupted.

In 2012, Ireland hosted 57 cruise liners with a total passenger and crew number of 87,193.

However, that had soared to 100 cruise liners and 241,646 passengers by 2019.

Shipping industry officials warned last summer that it could take two or three years for the global cruise industry to fully recover from the pandemic.

Covid-19 came as a crippling blow to an industry which expanded rapidly over the past 15 years following decades of decline.