By Mark Buckshon
I had somewhat mixed feelings a couple of weeks ago, when I called our travel agent to book a Mediterranean cruise for April, 2022. Was I right to make this plan?
After all, we had just returned from a lengthy South Pacific cruise and visit to Australia and New Zealand in early March, 2020 – just a week before the pandemic closed borders and businesses, and individuals around the world hunkered down for undoubtedly one of the most disruptive international crises in a century.
Cruise ships and the cruising industry were among the pandemic’s earliest victims. We were on the boat sailing across the Pacific Ocean in February as the COVID-19 death toll started mounting on the Diamond Princess. Our travels were only slightly disrupted. One port (Tonga) declined to allow us to dock, and we safely disembarked in Aukland, NZ a week later.
But things certainly turned chaotic in the following month, with the cruise ship offloading all of its remaining passengers in Perth, Australia; adding to the chaos as passengers around the world tried to get home on overcrowded flights; in some cases spreading COVID-19 further in the process.
I wondered; could the cruise industry survive this catastrophe – as we all were concerned about the economy and the crushing impact from an invisible virus?
Fast forward a bit more than a year, and the world has not come to an end. In fact, the problem for the construction industry in Ottawa and Ontario is more about shortages and material price increases than business losses.
Several construction associations reported significant budget surpluses. It seems that while the cancellation of events and organized activities cost the associations significant amounts of revenue, these losses were more than offset by government wage subsidies.
While certainly some cruise lines have experienced significant financial distress, I don’t know of any that have gone out of business, even though they were generally not eligible for various government bailout programs. I am not alone in calling travel agents to schedule vacations for next year, when it is likely that shortages and price inflation will affect the travel industry much as it has construction.
Of course, there are many doubts ahead – and lots of stress, especially for individuals and organizations who could not properly access government relief programs and whose livelihoods and businesses depended on travel, entertainment, or large group activities. As well, sadly, many have lost family members or friends to the virus.
Still, even as we go through another lockdown, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I’m looking forward to the year ahead, and hope you are, as well.
Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.