THE government has been urged to help Hampshire’s cruise industry after the government warned UK citizens against sailing on liners.

A Southampton MP is calling on ministers to reverse the advice, which could affect thousands of jobs locally.

Although the ban on non-essential foreign travel has been lifted for dozens of destinations, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised people against cruises.

Southampton-based Carnival UK has confirmed nearly a third of its shore-based staff have left in a wave of redundancies proposed in May.

Royston Smith, Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, said of the travel advice: “This is very disappointing news for anyone who has a cruise booked or works in the industry.

“I have been in contact with the chancellor and the transport minister, calling for them to provide enhanced support for this critical industry for Southampton and the country.

“The cruise industry has been doing lots of work behind the scenes to make cruise ships Covid-secure. If it’s safe to fly, it’s safe to travel on a cruise ship. I hope the decision can be reversed as quickly as possible.”

Peter Taylor, chair of the leadership team of Southampton Chamber of Commerce, part of Hampshire Chamber, said: “Thousands of jobs in Southampton, Portsmouth and across Hampshire depend on the cruise industry. Each cruise turnaround generates precious income for local supply chains.

“Passengers and those businesses who rely on the industry for their livelihoods will want greater clarity from the Foreign Office about the future.

“This is a blanket statement about the whole cruise industry when of course there are different sizes of cruise ship. There are the larger vessels which visit Southampton but also many smaller ones who visit other ports around the UK and indeed the rivers of Europe.”

He called on the government to say when cruises could restart, or explain what needed to happen before they could.

“It is said that the current advice stems from medical opinion. The key question yet to be answered by government is what is it that needs to change from a medical perspective for the FCO to endorse the safety of cruising,” he added.

Carnival UK president Simon Palethorpe said its P&O Cruises operation had already paused sailings until October 15, while its Cunard fleet was not sailing until November.

He said the company was working “at the highest level” with health authorities, government and the industry governing body.

“We will follow applicable guidelines to further enhance our already stringent measures to keep our guests and crew healthy and well and we will not resume sailings on either of our brands until this framework is in place,” he said.

“Confidence in cruising is strong and we are seeing increasing demand from our guests, who we look forward to welcoming back on board when the time is right,” he added.

He also confirmed that the redundancies announced in May had taken effect.

“Following a period of collective consultation nearly a third of our shore based staff very sadly left our business on June 30 and another significant proportion are taking a period of sabbatical,” he added.

Pavlos Arvanitis, senior in tourism and air travel management at Solent University, Southampton, said there were signs internationally of business confidence returning.

But he warned: “We travel when we have money to spend. If we don’t have money to spare, we don’t travel. This is the next obstacle to overcome.

“I think in the long run it will recover somehow.”

However, he warned that we were not in a "post-Covid" world and needed to be wary of a second wave.