The mass cruise tourism industry, what we call here “big cruising”, sells escapism and endless indulgence at a cheap price for stressed out and budget conscious holidaymakers. This has resulted in cruises being the fastest growing sector of the travel industry up until the 2020 pandemic. Cruise tourism is cast as a win-win for all parties as tourists have great holidays, local destinations have boatloads of visitors brought right to their shores and the cruise companies rake in profits. So why are local communities increasingly protesting this supposedly great sector?
There are a few things to look at here.
Firstly, the cruise tourism sector is dominated by three multinational corporations: Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. KPMG reported in July 2020 that while “… there are over 50 cruise lines and more than 270 ships, however, just around 75 percent of the market is controlled by three main players. These leading companies oversee an empire of subsidiary cruise lines, collectively bringing in $34.2 billion in revenue in 2018”. This dominance commands a great deal of power and influence. In some cases, this may mean the ability to dictate favourable terms.
Secondly, these cruise lines frequently operate under flags of convenience (FOC). These allow the cruise companies to take advantage of tax havens, making them some of the least regulated industries in the USA. The use of FOC underpins the profit-making model, with owners and operators able to avoid more stringent workplace, health, safety and environmental rules. This is in effect, part of the profit-making formula.
This is an excerpt from a press release by Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, originally published on Medium.