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News Analysis: Cruise Agents Report OptimismJanuary 13, 2011 By: Susan Young
It looks like 2011 is tracking to be another record year for the cruise industry and for agents who sell cruise vacations. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said Wednesday that the global economy continues to show signs of recovery. In addition, CLIA said a December 2010 survey of its member travel agents showed 93.6 percent are optimistic about travel sales in 2011. Eighty-six percent expect their cruise sales in 2011 to exceed those in 2010. Eighty-five percent of those agents said that cruise sales during this year’s Wave Season (January through March) will likely surpass sales during the same peak sales period last year – on average by 16 percent.
After learning of the CLIA survey results, Michelle Fee, co-founder and CEO of Cruise Planners, told Travel Agent she was quite optimistic about 2011 future bookings. "Although we had a really strong 2010, we are extremely encouraged by how we turned the year in bookings for 2011," Fee said. "Alaska and Europe bookings continue to build and from what I’m seeing, the 'traveling public' is back."
CLIA also said that the booking window for cruise sales has increased from an average of 4.5 months in 2009 to an anticipated 5.8 months in 2011. Many CLIA cruise lines now report their booking window is an average of five to seven months.
CLIA’s 25 member lines carried 15 million people including 11.1 million North Americans, a record. Collectively, the lines operated at 103 percent occupancy (including third and fourth berth bookings in some double occupancy cabins). For 2011, CLIA forecasts its member lines will carry 16 million passengers, an increase of 6.6 percent. Seventy-three percent of those guests, or 11.68 million, are expected to come from North America, while 27 percent, or 4.32 million, will be sourced internationally.
“The cruise industry has ridden the economic storm of the past 18 plus months with remarkable resiliency, skill and success,” said Jan Swartz, CLIA’s new marketing committee chair and executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for Princess Cruises and Cunard Line. Swartz said that just as 2010 showed impressive gains, she expects 2011 to be another strong year, generating increased benefits for CLIA lines, member travel agents, the destinations served and consumers.
Fee noted that while consumers still want deals, cruise lines are holding strong and fares seem to be climbing, a positive development.
"Barring any catastrophe, I’m feeling really good about business in 2011," Fee said.
Since 1980, the annual passenger growth rate for CLIA member lines has averaged more than 7.5 percent. In 2010, 12 ships joined the CLIA fleet; those vessels represent an investment of $5.9 billion and range in capacity from 101 passengers to 5,400 passengers.
Fleet additions between 2010 and 2012 represent a net fleet capacity increase of 17.4 percent, or 51,306 beds. Between 2011 and 2012, an additional 22 ships are on order, including 14 to be delivered in 2011. New ships launching in 2011 include: Carnival Magic; Costa Favalosa; Celebrity Silhouette; Disney Dream; Oceania Cruises’ Marina; Seabourn Quest; Pearl Mist; Avalon Waterways’ Panorama; AMA Waterways’ Amalotus, Amaverde and Amakaterina; Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s Douro Spirit, Antoinette and River Victoria.
Bob Sharak, CLIA’s executive vice president of marketing and distribution, said of 2010: “Despite a challenging financial climate, CLIA member lines continued to invest in the future, building new ships, offering innovative new cruise experiences, and developing increasingly diverse itineraries all over the world.”
CLIA member lines cited Europe and European rivers as among the “hot destinations” for 2011, along with the Caribbean, South America, Asia and the Pacific. The lines also reported the following trends: globalization of itineraries; increased dining options; evolution of onboard spas; personalization of the cruise experience including private or exclusive shore excursions; more activities targeting families, children’s, sports enthusiasts and other special interest groups; themed cruises; and increases in cruise travel by baby boomers, families, multigenerational groups, first time cruisers and corporate/meeting groups.
For more information about CLIA, visit www.cruising.org.