Ongoing hostilities in the Red Sea are continuing to affect the region’s tourism sector as cruise companies cancel or reroute voyages to protect crew and holidaymakers.
Iran-sponsored Yemeni Houthi rebels are dogging the area with drone attacks and armed hijackings, supposedly aimed at Israeli targets, and retaliatory strikes are taking place by the US and the UK. Against this background, a number of operators including Carnival Corporation, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean are understandably making costly changes to routes or cancelling certain sailings altogether.
Carnival has just announced itinerary changes for 12 ships among seven of its subsidiary brands, such as Costa and Seabourn. The company is “committed to the safety and well-being of its guests and crew,” it said, and had been “actively monitoring the situation in the Red Sea and surrounding region.”
“Given recent developments on the security environment and future uncertainties in the area, working in close consultation with global security experts and government authorities, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the cruise that was originally planned,” Costa said in a statement, Writing off a 19-night cruise from the United Arab Emirates to Italy.
Similarly, Princess Cruises’ Island Princess and Coral Princess will no longer be making stops in the Middle East. Australian, South African and West African ports will benefit instead.
In addition, MSC Cruises scratched at least three repositioning voyages calendared for April, including a 24-night cruise on board MSC Splendida from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy. It attributed the cancellation directly to the deteriorating security situation in the Red Sea.
Royal Caribbean’s luxury brand, Silversea, also confirmed it had abandoned two upcoming voyages on board Silver Moon and “amended” a voyage between Aqaba, Jordan and Muscat, Oman, to allow guests to disembark instead in Piraeus, Athens. “We took care of arranging guests’ onward journeys from the new port of disembarkation,” a Silversea spokesperson told CNN.
Billions of dollars of trade pass through the Red Sea each year but now shipping in the region is increasingly seen as a risky lottery. Not to mention the reputational damage to the area’s tourism, just as Saudi Arabia, for example, attempts to style itself as a cruise destination.
Cruise Saudi recently bought a $300-million ship, and various ultra-luxe regional tourism projects are in the pipeline, such as Sindalah’s 7-star private-island resort boasting 38 restaurants and a number of superyacht marinas, or a gigantic 50-resort waterscape yielding 8,000 hotel rooms over 22 islands. With the Saudis running at 82% debt to government revenue, their massive investments in this area and ambitious near-term tourism targets have had some commentators already questioning the risk of over-supply – a risk that only increases with the growing perception that the area is dangerous to visit.