Cruise Industry Labor Shortage

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The cruise industry has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The confined surroundings, and the gathering of large groups of international passengers and crew with various levels of immunity,  have contributed to cruise ships becoming the perfect petri dish for the virus.  These factors led the cruise industry to a major shut-down. However, despite this critical setback, the cruise industry has continued to grow and is projected to expand immensely.

Eased Cruise Restrictions

After a 15-month-long pandemic lockdown, cruise ships began sailing again from US ports last summer. In March 2022, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) lifted risk advisories around cruising for the first time in two years. More than 75% of the member fleet of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a leading global cruise industry trade group, has returned to service. And nearly 100% of them were expected to be back in business by this August. Moreover, CLIA suggests that passenger numbers will not only meet but surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, with nearly 40 new vessels lined up for debut in 2022 alone. More than 75 ships are on order through 2027 according to Cruise Industry News’ cruise ship orderbook for ocean-going vessels.

Increased Job Opportunities in the Cruise Industry

Despite the global pandemic, the cruise industry is continuously expanding and offers a plethora of job opportunities. The resumption of cruise tourism brings the workforce back to the industry and is reviving local and national economies. However, the industry struggles with labor shortages due to pandemic-related visa restrictions as well as a general preference of workers for flexible working hours. This shortage creates an increased demand for new workers and opens the way for managerial-track employment in the industry.

Managerial Careers in the Cruise Industry

Many managerial career paths exist on a cruise ship such as food and beverage managers, executive chefs, hotel managers, and casino managers. Having a hospitality/tourism degree will provide an advantage in earning these managerial positions. The jobs available in the cruise industry require great people skills and emotional intelligence. Both of which are integral to the coursework of a hospitality and tourism degree. Other skills that can be useful include strong communication, organizational, and financial skills, quick problem solving while maintaining customer focus, collaborating with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and the ability to adapt to life at sea for extended periods. Earning a global hospitality and tourism degree from Eastern Kentucky University can give you a professional edge to preparing for these careers.

By: Jeongyeon (Jennie) Ahn, PhD, assistant professor, EKU Global Hospitality and Tourism

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