Shares in major cruise lines rocketed to new highs on news that the Pfizer company may have discovered a vaccine with early test results showing a 90% success rate.
The eight-month halt of cruise ships has seen major lines brought to their knees and forced to borrow billions as ships at anchor cost them up to $3 billion each a month.
While the past few weeks has seen new health protocols from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the news of a possible vaccine breakthrough has come as a great relief.
“TripAdvisor has long believed travel will recover with viguor as soon as a vaccine was widely available. Today’s Pfizer news is a welcomed step in the right direction,” Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, told CNBC.
His company shares went up 20 per cent.
Cruise lines saw their stock jump higher. Carnival Corporation went up 36 per cent, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean saw gains of up to 30 per cent.
“This is a very positive development for the world, and, of course, our company and our brands, as well as the cruise industry. It is too early at this point to determine the impact this may have on the conditional sail order in the U.S., if any,” Carnival was quoted as saying.
Cruise Lines International Association Australasia MD Joel Katz said: “Medical advances like this are very encouraging, not only for the development of vaccines but also across other areas such as treatment and testing capabilities.
“For the cruise industry, we will continue to work closely with medical experts and authorities worldwide to ensure we have the best possible insight. The global health measures we are implementing across the cruise industry will go beyond those of almost any other industry, and they will continue to evolve as we respond to new insight and further medical advances.”
Darren Rudd, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, said a successful vaccine would be a huge step forward in restoring confidence.
“I see the vaccine as helping cruises probably in Australian waters to start with and then moving on the international front,” he said.
Cruise companies had been preparing to trial new health protocols, and have been sailing in Europe to mixed results.
But they had suspected sailings until the beginning of 2021 in American.
In Australia, travel stocks surged. Flight Centre jumped 8.3 per cent to $15.56, Webjet shares rose 11.9 per cent to $4.79, and Helloworld surged 19.2 per cent to $2.22.
Graham Turner, Flight Centre managing director, said: “If it is 80-90 per cent efficacious as people get vaccinated they will be able to travel.
“The virus will still be around for years, and I presume you will have to be vaccinated to travel to most countries.”
His view: Asia will be the quickest winner, with Bali or Phuket high on post-pandemic bucket lists.
They will be followed by the United Kingdom and Europe, as soon as people can get vaccinated.
Most experts believe it will take up to 60 days to start up and return ships and crews to position so they could take on paying passengers.
But we are a way from that, as even the most optimistic reports say the vaccine won’t be freely available until the beginning of 2021.
Crews would need to be vaccinated and passengers possible need to show they had been given the new drug before setting sail.
Hotel, airline and other travel stocks are also rising, and some predict the pent-up demand will see Christmas and New Year bookings soar, along with 2021 flights.
Industry experts anticipate a strong return to bookings once confidence returns.