What's hot for 2010 cruising? Singles at sea, freestyling and social networking are just a few of the trends setting sail this year according to a report from Amadeus, which sees the cruise sector as the source of good news for 2010.
Amadeus spoke with Bob Sharak, the executive vice president of marketing at Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), to get a bird’s eye view of the top 2010 trends in cruising that agents want to know about to rev up their cruise booking profits. The key question: With cruises in the lead, how can busy travel professionals profit from this lucrative segment?
Despite a world economy that’s still soft, the cruise industry is reporting some uplifting stats, Amadeus says citing the CLIA. Substantially more passengers are expected to cruise this year. A projected 14.3 million—10.3 million of those from North America alone—will board ships in 2010, an increase of almost 1 million over 2009’s 13.44 million bookings.
Now is the time for travel agents to be very aggressive in their cruise marketing. Despite the strong figures, cruising is still an untapped market. Over 80 percent of Americans have never taken a cruise. Amadeus sees 2010 as the year of “sowing the seeds” for growth by tapping into new markets and capturing new customers. Promoting the value of a cruise vacation and providing strong customer service in the transactional sale is critical.
Social Networking Speeds Ahead
According to Sharak, one of the most important strategies in cruise marketing is developing a strong link with customers and potential customers. The new online social media tools (Facebook, Twitter and others) can take you beyond the standard advertising, promotion and e-mail campaigns. With social media, you can better engage the cruise traveler by providing useful cruise-related information, links and posts—along with highlights on deals and trips.
More Capacity & Experiences- More Bang for Your Buck
It’s all about more. Cruise lines are responding to the need for increased market share with more ships, more space and more cruising experiences, including big-name entertainment, high-end restaurants, cigar lounges, outdoor parks and much more! In 2010, 14 new ships are launching, with 22,000 new beds. The shiny new ships and amenities are a strong lure for both cruise veterans and virgins.
The Demographics are Changing
Pay attention to these cruiser stats, because they are shifting:
* Average age is dropping—from 56 in 2002 to 50 in 2010. Younger consumers are finding appeal in the popularity of themed cruises centered on music, wine, food, celebrities and other niches.
* Family cruisers are gaining momentum. From the nuclear family jaunt to large-scale family reunion cruising, the numbers can add up in terms of bookings. Value for the money, kid-friendly entertainment and daycare options are big pulls for this group.
With more ships sailing from cities like Baltimore, Seattle, Houston and Boston on a regular basis, drive to port is experiencing a revival for cost (and time) conscious travelers. Hassle-free and budget-friendly, these new close-to-home cruising options are expected to open up a completely new revenue stream.
Short Burst Cruises
Especially attractive for consumers living near Florida ports, the “less than a week” cruise is growing in popularity for those in need of a quick but memorable getaway on the high seas. And with these short burst cruises, ships will be plying the waters around Bermuda, the Caribbean islands and the Mexican Rivera.
Rolling on the (European) River
The cruise industry is seeing an increase in sales for European riverboat cruise sales among both U.S. and European travelers. And to compete with the bigger ships, the smaller, riverboat cruises are stepping it up a notch, with luxury cabins and high-tech amenities. Knowing your existing and potential customer base for this segment will be key in effectively promoting the small boat, small water experience.
Singles at Sea
Many cruise lines are giving singles the respect they deserve by waiving single supplements, fees that can go as high as 200 percent. One cruise line is even launching a special ‘singles’ cabin section that opens up into a lounge area for mixing and mingling. That means heavier penetration into this lucrative market of singles looking to sail the high seas.
Singles’ cruises are becoming increasingly popular. Need proof? The rise of sub-niches such as “cougar cruises,” where older women called “cougars” seek younger men, called “cubs” at sea.
“As You Wish” Cruising
High-seas adventure or ultimate relaxation? Burger and fries or filet mignon? From on board resort style dining (being able to eat where you want, when you want) to a wide choice of activities and accommodations, this mode of cruising experience is becoming more popular. Travel professionals can now offer their cruise customers a wide variety of on-board experiences.
Sharak points out that agencies would be wise in the coming year to think, “what new technology should I choose,” versus “should I invest more in technology?”
The right booking tools and technology solutions translate to more value-added service for your cruise customers—and higher profits for you. After all, they are investing their time and money in an important travel experience. The expectation is that you, their valued travel professional, will make their cruise booking experience a breeze.”
Amadeus notes that Amadeus Cruise is a component of Amadeus Selling Platform as well as Amadeus Vacation Link, a free leisure booking portal for all travel professionals, regardless of GDS affiliation.