TourMaG.com – There is a feeling of exasperation that dominates among players in the cruise industry, which is not restarting in France. What is your vision on this subject?
Jean-François Suhas: I would like to broaden my point. The idea that prevails in the government, and which is a little peculiar to France, is that overall leisure in the broad sense is blocked.
In the leisure hat we can talk about sport, culture, theater, like a cruise ship or tourism in general. The French company took 40 years to convert the secondary sector into the tertiary sector, and obviously a large part of the services relate to leisure.
The big problem we are encountering is that the government is making a choice that does not correspond at all to what the French economy really is. We are still talking about tourism GDP of around 8%. But if we add the famous leisure-related services, this figure becomes monstrous! And this choice I find it difficult to understand.
Even in a country like Germany, where the confinement has been strong enough, neither leisure activities nor cruises are prohibited. It is a political choice but an economic heresy.
We already know that the aeronautics industry is on its knees, the automotive industry is not in great shape and behind it is the leisure industry which this government has made the tactical choice to ban everything without looking at what is being done. elsewhere, and without looking at the disastrous consequences on a large number of sectors.
If we are to focus on the economy, which industries would it be? Those which are in decline and for which we will have to reinject billions of euros of public money?
This leisure industry weighs so heavily on the French economy that we cannot hope for a deconfinement, adapted, progressive and reasoned?
Cruises have resumed in several countries …
TourMaG.com – Back to the cruise. Why do the cruises leave for Italy with 5 ships departing from Genoa and not from Marseille?
Jean-François Suhas: Cruises have resumed in Italy but also in Japan! When we discuss the subject with our Minister of Tourism (Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne editor’s note), the case of the Diamond Princess quarantined in Japan last February is systematically coming back to the fore.
But Japanese officials have apologized to the cruise operator and customers. They explained that they had handled the situation badly. And since then they have allowed cruises to restart, and this country has not taken covid-19 lightly!
In Italy, Madeira, Croatia, Greece, the Canaries, Singapore … cruises have resumed. Singapore has banned everything and today it is possible to take a cruise.
What bothers me is that we have the impression that we are not being listened to and that no one is watching what is happening elsewhere.
TourMaG.com – The cruising sector, however, communicates a lot about health protocols which are nevertheless very strict …
Jean-François Suhas: Yes, what is incredible is that airports are chasing antigenic tests which have been carried out at MSC Cruises or Costa Cruises for more than two months. These shipowners have the possibility of carrying out tests in 30 minutes, the same for Ponant, with partnerships forged with French and European companies.
Airports receive thousands of passengers who are not tested and in the cruise they are all tested or even retested. MSC Cruises even offers to test disembarking travelers.
As experts in these matters, we cannot accept that there is no discussion. And the systematic argument of referring to the Diamond Princess is not acceptable for a sector that has a European protocol that the Germans, Italians, Croats … have put in place.
We must look at what is happening elsewhere
TourMaG.com – What are you asking exactly?
Jean-François Suhas: We are not asking to resume the cruise at any cost or with our eyes closed. Nor was I asking that we be the pioneers in this recovery.
We are now simply asking that this has been tested elsewhere so that we can restart. The German company Aïda offers trips from Italy, they make requests in France that we cannot honor.
However, hundreds of French passengers come to Marseille at the Terminal to be tested and then leave for Italy by coach to board. It’s incomprehensible.
We have an absolute double penalty: the French who wish to go on a cruise suddenly embark in Italy and in addition we will not have the Italians, Germans or others who could support our territories.
Far be it from me to dispute that covid-19 is not to be taken seriously, but cruises today have found a solution to deal with the subject upstream: with quarantine of crews and tests.
What I also ask is to discuss with the Marseille health authorities with Patrick Augier rear admiral of the Marseille firefighters, the PACA regional health agency … who know exactly what the cruise is capable of doing.
Thousands of people embark without any test on ferries while this is not possible on liners …
“Cruises are serious business!”
TourMaG.com – At the same time, there have been a few cases of covid among crews and sometimes among certain passengers at the end of their stay … The press has echoed this.
Jean-François Suhas: The question is what is the risk for the people of Marseille? What I understand is that we have to preserve sanitary capacity, we have to keep hospital beds and intensive care beds available, that’s normal.
Even if you have a case of covid on board, the passengers will be repatriated to their country. On board currently, these are passengers who come only from the Mediterranean basin: Spain, France, Italy and also from Germany.
You should know that insurance is compulsory for passengers. The shipowners do everything upstream to avoid having a case on board. Of course even if they test 100% of passengers and crews, they are not immune. There are 30,000 cases per day in France.
Some passengers may have very low viral loads and fall through the cracks initially.
And when the symptoms appear, the shipowners have planned everything: they test, isolate and repatriate immediately. The logistics chain based on this triptych is perfectly mastered and in line with the European health protocol.
Cruises are serious business! We are able to test and find each case.
“We want to resume as soon as possible”
TourMaG.com – France has put in place a curfew and other European countries are tightening the screws … When do you hope to see a recovery?
Jean-François Suhas: What I see is that countries like Germany, Italy or even in Asia … the cruises continue because there was no particular difficulty.
I hope that after these 4 weeks of curfew in France, the results on the epidemic will be positive. We want to resume as soon as possible to have a chance next summer to welcome a few ships and keep the skills related to this activity that exist in the territory.
Usually in October we had 80 boats per month, if we could restart with 5 or 6 boats in the month that would be good. It is ridiculous what we are asking for.
And even if we restarted and there was a problem, we could stop everything again. We are forced to adapt. I would like to be able to show that it works, and if it doesn’t, well we stop!
We were asked to wait for the European protocol, to see how it was going to happen elsewhere … well now it exists! When we see that there are 20 million travelers who have traveled on the trains this summer with the only precaution the mask … The stop of the cruise is incomprehensible.
I don’t want to shout or shout, nor hire an iron bar … But behind there are guides, port pilots, taxis, these are diffuse jobs … they want to work and be respected. These are not adjustment variables, even though many jobs have benefited from aid.
I just want us to be listening and we can discuss. We can accommodate boats in Marseille under reasonable conditions.
And then the passengers were happy to find the cruises since August. There is a real demand!
Focus on the numbers:
1.86 million passengers, including around 450,000 at the head of the line (pax starting and / or ending their cruise in Marseille) + 1.41 million in transit (pax having started and started their cruise in another port)
73 different stopover ships, operated by 23 different cruise lines
Initial forecasts (pre-Covid 19)> 2 million pax and 537 stopovers
Since January 1, 2020, Marseille has only hosted 35 stopovers (figure on 1 October) and 125,000 transit passengers and head of the line.
Economic benefits of cruising
Total economic impact estimated at € 374 million in 2019 on Marseille Provence territory
57% of pax boarding in Marseille (start of the cruise) spend in the region, on average € 70.60
86% of pax in transit spend in the territory, on average € 50.30, excluding the purchase of the excursion (which also generates benefits for the territory)
Distribution of economic benefits throughout the year: stopovers are scheduled every month in Marseille, including out of the summer season, with ships positioned year round in the western Mediterranean
Shortfall in 2020 resulting from cancellations related to Covid-19 estimated at € 384 million (as of October 1) across the entire professional ecosystem working with cruises
Source Club of the Marseille Cruise
Posted by Céline Eymery
Editor-in-Chief – TourMaG.com
See all articles by Céline Eymery