Sustainable cruising was the big topic at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global Conference, the world’s largest gathering of industry leaders and innovators. The 35th annual conference wrapped up at the end of September in Miami with renewed optimism. After an all-virtual edition in 2020, it was great to safely reconnect in person (masked and vaccinated) with a large number of our cruise line friends, partners and colleagues. The 2021 conference was a hybrid event with a virtual component for speakers and attendees who were not able to travel.
Future Focus: Sustainable Cruising
At Seatrade Cruise Global 2021, top environmental and sustainability specialists from around the world gathered to network, share best practices, and collectively advance the industry forward. With a major focus on sustainability, there was a complete track of six sessions devoted to everything from the evolution of fuels and innovative technology to safety, sustainable sourcing, and community stewardship.
It was my honor to moderate the Sustainability Spotlight panel with three guest speakers who are at the forefront of the sustainable cruise movement: Linden Coppell representing MSC, Silvia Garrigo for The Royal Caribbean Group, and Grant Holmes of Inchcape Shipping Services. We had an insightful discussion of sustainability from the cruise guest experience side – both onboard and ashore. Topics included port congestion, purchasing, waste management, ship operations and decarbonization.
Featured Panelists: Sustainability Initiatives
The Royal Caribbean Group has made sustainability a core principle for their operations. Their 2020 “Seastainability” Report, published earlier in September, provides an update on Royal Caribbean Group’s strategic approach to sustainability. The company is developing new strategies to reduce carbon emissions, improve waste management, eliminate all single-use plastics, and promote sustainable tourism.
MSC Cruises has an executive committee on decarbonization that focuses on Planet, People, Place and Procurement. The cruise line has pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its cruise operation by 2050. Looking ahead, MSC is taking part in several industry research projects to develop the technologies and fuels that offer the potential to enable zero-emissions ships.
Inchcape Shipping Services is working to open 50+ new ports around the world. Their goal is to build sustainable tourism infrastructure and reduce overtourism by managing the flow of visitors. This will reduce congestion for a more beautiful and relaxing experience for visitors, and provide more opportunities for local residents. (By the way, during the conference I was excited to announce Landy & Kling’s new strategic partnership with Inchcape Shipping Services.)
The Future of Sustainable Cruises
It is Important to note that sustainability has become an executive, C-level and/or board focus at the major cruise lines. In fact, when it comes to finding innovative technologies and solutions to reduce emissions and protect our environment, the cruise industry has invested more than $23.5 billion. Even though few ships were sailing in 2020, the cruise lines continued to track and report on their sustainability goals. As ships return to service in 2021 and beyond, they remain committed to advancing a healthier, sustainable planet.
While early environmental initiatives were primarily focused on preventing and eliminating emissions and improper waste discharge at sea, cruise lines are now looking deeper into operations to eliminate waste, plastics, and excess packaging. In addition, they are committed to sourcing products locally or over shorter supply chains, and are working with destinations to encourage responsible tourism.
One Word: Resilience
Members of the panel were asked for one word that reflected what they learned over the past year as the world – and our industry – coped with the pandemic. A key response was “resilience”.
The fact that the cruise industry survived the longest, most complete shutdown of any hospitality sector and is returning stronger than ever is proof of resilience. With pent-up demand, ships are now setting sail with safe and happy guests all over the world.
The importance the cruise industry places on sustainability is also an indication of resilience. With a renewed commitment to protect our planet and communities they visit, cruise lines continue to demonstrate their intention to longevity.