by Karen Galles
The cruise sale is a complex undertaking for the travel agent—because it’s a complex decision for the travel planner. It’s rarely a straight forward process, especially for the first-time cruiser. Travel consumers have so many cruise options to wade through, from where to go and what to see to which cruise line to use, which ship to travel on, what type of cabin to book and which “extras” to pay for. It’s hard work, but a welcome challenge: 80% of CLIA-certified travel agents expect an increase in sales in 2017 over last year.
Travel agents take a consultative approach with customers to understand their needs and expectations and to guide them toward the ideal cruising solution. But staying on top of consumer cruising trends and getting a feel for what the various cruise lines are offering to meet the marketplace’s demand go far to help agents efficiently vet suppliers and make winning recommendations to their customers.
What’s Inspiring Cruise Travelers in 2017?
Cruise Lines International Association’s 2017 CLIA State of the Industry, based on their 2017 Cruise Travel Report of US and Canada research, has identified the following trends:
All Aboard! Younger generations (defined in this research as Millennials and Gen Xers) are embracing cruising more than ever, many claiming that cruising is their favorite vacation. In fact, among veteran cruisers, 63% Millennials and 69% Gen Xers say they will definitely take another cruise in the future.
Ride the ocean cruising wave. Nearly half (47%) of non-cruisers are interested in taking an ocean cruise. And 56% of Millennials cite ocean cruises (10% cite river cruisers) as their favorite vacation; 58% Gen Xers favor ocean cruises over river cruises (13%).
Yet river cruising is on the rise. There were 184 river cruise ships in 2015, but 18 new ships are on order for 2017. People who take river cruises are more interested in seeing and doing new things (54%) in contrast to those who take ocean cruises (45%). Compared to ocean cruisers, river cruisers are less likely to take vacations to relax and more likely to go on vacation to learn about history and other cultures.
Private islands build appeal. More private islands are appearing on cruise itineraries. In 2017, cruise lines are offering ports on a total of seven private islands.
Amenities? CLIA’s research uncovered discrepancies between what cruisers say they want and what they actually use. They say, for instance, that kid-focused programs and babysitting services are important, but tend not to use them; they say that onboard entertainment, casino/gaming, onboard shopping, fitness facilities, and pools/Jacuzzis are less important, yet report more use of these amenities.
Other trends. Cruisers have also shown an affinity for…
- The convenience and cost of driving to a cruise port
- Dining experiences featuring celebrity chefs
- Adventure travel and expedition cruising
Take a look back at the Holiday Cruise Trends for 2016.
Helping Customers Pick a Cruise
Travel professionals can turn to Travel Market Report’s handy Cruise Report Card For Travel Agents for the following information on 13 cruise companies:
- Commissions – Indicates whether the cruise line pays for base fare, ancillary services, dining packages, shore excursions, airfare, and more. Plus, you’ll get details on commission schedules, non-commissionable fees, and website sales-related commissions.
- Accreditations – Tells you if they accept travel professional accreditations including CLIA, ARC, ASTA, and others.
- Overbooking policies – Which cruise lines overbook and, if so, how do they handle commissions?
- Fam trip policies – What are the agency partners’ opportunities to experience each cruise line’s product?
- Websites – Provides details about what types of promotions are offered on each cruise line’s website, what type of travel agent services and tools they may offer, and to what extent they involve agents in sales and marketing opportunities.
- Training programs – Shares how each cruise line supports the travel agent’s sales process via training, co-op marketing opportunities, and referral programs.
For more about navigating cruise season, check out 3 Opportunities for Today’s Traditional Travel Agency.