Consumers Spin Wheel of Fortune with Wave Season BookingsJanuary 20, 2010 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
Step right up for two-for-one fares. Take your chance at a balcony blowout special. Tap into free air? No, it’s not reality TV or a game show extravaganza. It’s Wave Season 2010, which travel industry leaders say is delivering better-than-expected bookings and even some “waitlists” for popular cabin categories on peak season voyages.
As the cruise industry’s prime promotional period, Wave Season usually begins in December or January and runs through the end of March or, depending on the line, into late spring. Wave Season promotions are designed to give consumers great deals and value-added perks early on – so the line fill their cabins as early as possible and, thus, stabilize pricing through the rest of the year.
Travel Agent talked with several industry leaders about their “intel” and gleanings about trends for this year’s Wave Season.
Wave Season is Building
While many consumers are still reeling from the recession, most apparently remain committed to taking a vacation. Most “gung ho” of all those we interviewed is Brad Anderson, co-president, America’s Vacation Center, who describes Wave Season this way: “For our affiliates, by any measure, it’s the best Wave Season we’ve ever seen.”
He says this year’s Wave Season is stronger than last year’s and, frankly, better for his organization than the 2008 Wave Season. America’s Vacation Center affiliates now are reporting record levels in many categories -- new leads, bookings, average price of bookings and average agent commission. “It’s never ever been better,” Anderson emphasizes.
From another executive’s perspective, “Wave Season has certainly had a different feeling this year - a much better one than same time last year,” stresses Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder, Cruise Planners . “With the stability of the economy, consumers seem to be trying to get back to living their lives. I’m not going to say they are completely back to where we were, but it’s much, much better.”
Echoing that thought is Jack Mannix, president and CEO, Ensemble Travel, who says he’s very encouraged and believes bookings will continue to strengthen. His consortia’s agents have already achieved some of their goals, and, anecdotally, he’s hearing about positive trends in the marketplace. For example, “recent bookings for 2010 are up significantly over the prior year,” Mannix says.
That said, he notes that total bookings for 2010 may still be a bit softer than the previous year, given that there was more Wave Season lead-in momentum in late 2008 then in late 2009. But “all in all, I am pleased with the trending we're seeing at this point,” says Mannix.
From the perspective of Dwain Wall, senior vice president, CruiseOne & Cruises Inc., business is relatively consistent on a year-round basis and while the 2010 “Wave Season” began a little slower than originally anticipated, “we are now seeing it pick up,” says Wall. “Based on what we are currently experiencing, we expect 2010 to far exceed 2009.”