(Business Insider) – Norwegian Cruise Line sales managers instructed employees to downplay the risks of the coronavirus and in some cases mislead potential customers to secure bookings during the outbreak, according to a Miami New Times report.
“The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise,” one of the misleading talking points shared with the sales staff said, according to the report. Scientists are still researching the virus and how it responds in various climates.
As the travel industry has struggled during the coronavirus outbreak, Norwegian Cruise Line managers instructed employees to use misleading talking points about the risks of the illness to secure bookings, according to a Miami New Times report.
The novel coronavirus has affected businesses around the world, but the travel industry is expected to be one of the hardest-hit financially.
The New Times said leaked emails showed that a Norwegian senior sales manager encouraged sales employees to reply to customers who voiced apprehension or concerns about the outbreak with misleading prepared responses.
The script urged customers to book as soon as possible with Norwegian because demand is surging and prices could skyrocket, the report said – but across the cruise industry, the opposite has been observed.
The US State Department has instructed people with underlying health conditions to avoid cruise ships. And cruise companies have reportedly seen fewer bookings as their stocks have plunged.
Conversations in company meetings downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, one Norwegian employee told the New Times, and many of the written responses for customers contained misleading and unconfirmed information.
“The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise,” one of the talking points read, according to the report.
“Scientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the Coronavirus,” the next said.
Another said, according to the New Times, that the coronavirus “cannot live in the amazingly warm and tropical temperatures that your cruise will be sailing to.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu and the common cold persist year-round in the US, though fall and winter are the worst months. While flu season usually ends in spring because of warmer temperatures and higher humidity, the report said, “scientists and medical experts have said they don’t know enough about the new coronavirus to say how it will react to warmer temperatures.”
The Norwegian employee who spoke with the New Times said the company was pushing to boost bookings and could fire or put on performance plans those who don’t meet sales quotas.
Norwegian Cruise Line did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The White House has discussed ways to help the struggling cruise and airline industries amid the outbreak, but it’s unclear what relief they’d see.