As we go to press, there are still more questions than answers related to the grounding and capsizing of the Costa Concordia in the waters near Tuscany, Italy. What’s clear, however, is that something went seriously wrong, resulting in a tragic accident. What’s also clear is that the drama of this incident will continue to unfold in front of the horrified eyes of audiences worldwide.
Whatever lessons Costa Cruises and other lines take away from this incident, the best course of action for Costa and the industry as a whole is complete transparency in the investigation, as well as frank, honest and public discussions on how this sort of disaster can be prevented in the future. This approach is the preferred course of action for travel agents as well because it is the best way to restore confidence in cruising.
One doesn’t have to go very far back in time to recall several headline-grabbing incidents that resulted in public relations nightmares for the cruise lines. With each sensational news story, we all watched as mainstream media outlets, often armed with false allegations and unsubstantiated rumors, dogged various companies for months, calling into question the safety of cruising as a whole. Even when cruise lines acted responsibly and thoroughly investigated these claims, the media found ways to stir the public’s paranoia and portray the companies as secretive and shady.
With this history fresh in mind, cruise lines should be mobilizing now to head off the media circus before it gains more momentum. By coming together as an industry and committing to an honest, thorough and public investigation, consumers will understand that accidents, such as what happened to the Concordia, are virtually unheard of and that cruising continues to be one of the safest forms of travel available.
Travel agents understand this truth but, without the industry as a whole supporting this message as soon and as often as possible, their words may ultimately fall on deaf ears.