Knowledge about COVID-19 and how to deal with it has been in constant flux for the past two years. The omicron variant has significantly altered the COVID-19 landscape for everyone, and Royal Caribbean Group is no exception.
As has been widely reported, the omicron variant is much more infectious than its predecessors and has already become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the United States and elsewhere. Fortunately, the omicron variant also appears to cause significantly less severe symptoms than previous variants, especially in people who are vaccinated. Cruises are still one of the few places where you can go on vacation knowing that almost everyone present is properly vaccinated.
Recent experience on Royal Caribbean Group ships is consistent with these observations. The figures indicate an increase in the number of people testing positive but without a corresponding increase in the number of people who are ill. Since the resumption of cruise ship activities in the United States in June 2021, Royal Caribbean Group has transported 1.1 million guests, among which 1,745 have had a positive result; a positivity rate of 0.162%. Furthermore, the vast majority of those cases had no or only mild symptoms, and only 41 people required hospitalization. None of the cases of the omicron variant have been serious or have required a transfer to a hospital.
“The omicron variant is having a great short-term impact on everyone, but many observers see this as an important step in making COVID-19 endemic rather than epidemic,” said Richard Fain, President and CEO. “We don’t like to see a single case, but our experience is a fraction of what comparable statistics from virtually any other similar location or industry indicate. Few companies are subject to such rigorous scrutiny, regulation, and disclosure requirements from so many. authorities, and we welcome such scrutiny because of our commitment to safety. We intend to uphold our goal of providing the safest vacations by land or sea, and will constantly adjust our procedures to achieve this.
Royal Caribbean Group Medical Director Dr. Calvin Johnson notes: “The company is browsing the ever-evolving information on the omicron variant. Our case count has skyrocketed, but the severity level is much milder. we will be agile and in constant contact with the health authorities. For example, even before the appearance of the omicron variant, we have been administering booster shots to all our crew members as they were eligible. ”
After a very intense “Cyber weekend”, the company experienced a decrease in bookings and an increase in cancellations for trips in the short term, but to a lesser extent than the level experienced with the delta variant. Occupancy for crossings in the first half of 2022 remains below historical levels, as expected. However, shipments for the second half of 2022 continue to be booked within historical ranges, at higher prices with and without Future Cruise Credits (FCC), with strong demand from the critical United States market.
The travel industry is experiencing significant disruptions to air travel and other service providers due to the spread of the omicron variant. Such shocks have a major impact especially during the holiday season, as the need and availability of labor increases and is affected by the current increase in cases. Similar issues are affecting the company’s capabilities to provide service on board. In addition, the company is experiencing service interruptions at select destinations and to date has canceled or significantly modified 16 destination stops out of a total of 331. The company projects that these interruptions will continue in the short term and then decrease, as the world adapt to current trends.
Fain concluded: “We are constantly learning and adapting as omicron appears to be beginning a new phase in the fight against COVID-19. We expect these factors to have a negative impact in the short term, but we are optimistic that they will lead to a more generalized but less severe healthcare environment. Taken together, this should allow us to produce a favorable transition year in 2022 and a very strong 2023”.