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'Sustainability touches everything we do': luxury cruise operators

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From left, moderator Carolyn Spencer Brown, Explora Journeys' Chris Austin, Silversea's Roberto Martinoli, Crystal River Cruises' Walter Littlejohn and, attending virtually, Ponant's Navin Sawhney
Sustainability may be a buzzword but cruise executives on a luxury panel at Seatrade Cruise Global indicated they — and a growing number of others — take it very seriously.

'Sustainabilty touches everything we do,' said Roberto Martinoli, president and CEO, Silversea Cruises. 'It's one of our biggest priorities.'

But Martinoli thinks the cruise industry hasn't talked enough about efforts in this area — though that is changing, with more companies issuing sustainability reports and working with third parties to help them set goals and provide verification.

Financial relevance

Martinoli also noted the New York Stock Exchange is requiring companies be more forthcoming with this information. And, in a capital intensive business like cruising, lenders today are not willing to provide financing 'if we are not showing that we are [serious] about sustainability.

'Every time we are speaking publicly, we should talk about it,' Martinoli said, 'and I think people will be surprised with the incredible things this industry is doing.'

Not top of mind for all consumers — yet

International Luxury Travel Market recently issued a survey and 'You'd expect sustainability to be at the top, and it wasn't. It was half-way down the list,' said Chris Austin, chief sales officer. Explora Journeys. Nevertheless, he said, 'A lot of people put sustainability at the very, very top of their focus.'

New brand Explora Journeys' fleet will have many environmental features. 'There's not a single element of the ships that we're not looking at in terms of sustainability, Austin said, adding that destinations and shoreside partners must be committed to sustainability also. He noted parent company MSC Group has committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Potential charterers want to know

Walter Littlejohn, SVP and managing director, Crystal River Cruises, said corporations that charter vessels for incentive programs want to be sure cruise operators are aligned with their own sustainability principles.

'But for consumers, I think sustainability is almost like the iPhone. No one knew they needed it until they needed it.

'There's definitely an audience who is very in tune with the issues and it's very important to them. They vote with their wallet,' Littlejohn said. However 'They're probably in the minority now.'

According to Martinoli, the younger generation demands attention to sustainability, and awareness is growing 'big time ... it touches almost every demographic.'

'Beyond SOx, NOx and single-use plastics'

Travel advisors are starting to ask, too, said Navin Sawhney, CEO - Americas, Ponant, who spoke from Le Havre, where his line just yesterday inaugurated its new hybrid, LNG-powered Le Commandant Charcot.

And sustainability for the cruise industry 'extends way beyond SOx, NOx and single-use plastics,' Sawhney said — it extends into the communities, into research on the impacts of marine noise on wildlife and other many other areas.

'This is not a beauty contest'

'We should all work together to promote [sustainability initiatives],' Martinoli said. 'This is not a beauty contest for cruise lines. We should be reporting what we do as an industry.'

Access this and many more sessions live and on demand by registering for Seatrade Cruise Global today. Extending further than ever before, Seatrade Cruise Global live is also virtual until Sept. 30, followed by Seatrade Cruise Global 2.0 running Oct. 4-31, including brand new content during the Power Networking week. Learn more and register at www.seatradecruiseglobal.com.

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