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April 29, 2008 By: George Dooley member agencies are reporting higher cruise sales in 2008 versus 2007, with the 2008 Wave season solid with 76 percent of member agencies reporting sales equal or above 2007. Cruises booked averaged $1,426 per person, according to the survey.

“As the largest organization representing leisure travel agents in North America, we are a very good barometer for the leisure industry and are encouraged by the continued growth in the cruise vacation market compared to last year,” said Steve Tracas, president and CEO of

At the same time, the retail agent network, with more than 5,000 agency locations, is reporting that consumers are spending more cautiously, booking closer to travel dates and opting for both mass-market and premium cruises while reducing the overall number of days at sea.

In addition, the survey results indicate that the Engagement Direct Marketing and E-mail Marketing programs have helped participating member agencies to show stronger increases in bookings and sales over those non-Engaged members in 2008.

Other results of the survey revealed:
    * 42 percent of the members said bookings were better than in 2007; 40 percent said bookings were about the same. Only 18 percent reported a decrease in bookings from 2007.
    * 42 percent claimed revenues had increased over the prior year; while 34 percent stated they were about the same. Only 24 percent reported revenue down year-over-year.
    * 17 percent of the membership claimed premium/luxury cruises have increased over the prior year; 52 percent said they had stayed the same.
    * Family and reunion cruises measured the greatest percentage increase in bookings at 35 percent.
    * Only 15 percent of the agencies reported significant increases in honeymoon cruisers.
    * 14-day cruises only increased with 27 percent of the membership, while almost an equal amount, 24 percent, experienced a decline.
    * 4/5-day cruises only increased with 22 percent of the members, while 18 percent experienced a decline.
    * 6/7-day cruises reported the largest increase with 33 percent of the members while only 10 percent reported a decrease.

When asked which of four issues influenced consumer purchases most: recessionary fears was the most prominent issue, followed by a weak U.S. dollar, the housing crisis, and then the cost of fuel.

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Read Part 2 of's cruise sales report.

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