Cruise Industry Set Back By Disaster

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MIAMI, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Financial analysts are downgrading prospects for cruise lines after a cruise ship disaster left at least 11 dead off the coast of Italy Friday.

The death toll for the Costa Concordia accident could reach even higher. As of late Tuesday, Italian authorities said 24 persons were still missing, USA Today reported.

As details of the tragedy unfold, industry analysts are predicting at least a short-term loss of business in the cruise line industry that has been growing rapidly in recent years.

“It is difficult to know what the impact on future bookings might be,” said UBS analyst Robin Farley.

“There are not many examples of incidents comparable to this,” she said, although this week she cut her 2012 earnings projects for Carnival, the company that owns the Costa Cruises, the newspaper said.

Analyst say it is difficult to find an accident that compares to Friday, when the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, allegedly took the ship off course and ran into rocks as he tried to sail the vessel close to the island.

Part of the public relations disaster rests on the number of deaths, while part lies on the visual image making the rounds in the media of the huge, half-sunken luxury vessel lying on its side in the water.

In addition, the crew’s reaction has been frequently criticized.

“Beyond the visual of a large modern megaship on its side, that’s what really stands out as being different from prior industry disasters, which do happen occasionally,” said Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruise Week.

The industry has survived other disasters, some of which have been handled better than others. This one, Driscoll said, is “a total mess.”

The accident “has us kind of spooked,” said Anna Liisa Van Mantgem of Brunswick, Md., who was considering a cruise vacation with her mother, who cannot swim.

“We thought it was a safe industry. I think we’re leaning away from cruising at this point,” she said.

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