North American travel agents have expressed high optimism about travel sales in 2011, according to a new survey by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
With 2010 sales shaping up to be stronger than 2009, the majority of agents predict even better results for travel in general in 2011, with cruises outperforming other types of travel.
While “large ship cruising” continues to dominate the largest share of the industry, the online survey conducted in December, with more than 500 agent responses, also demonstrated strong interest on the part of consumers in small ship and luxury cruises, including a rapidly growing interest in European river cruises.
And, in addition to confirming the popularity of cruises among couples, seniors and singles, agent responses reflected a continuing trend toward families and extended, or multi-generational, families choosing to cruise.
“The new CLIA survey is significant because it demonstrates that in 2010, despite economic conditions that dominated the headlines, CLIA travel agents have succeeded to grow their cruise business and are even more optimistic about the future. That optimism is largely based on their, and the public’s trust that CLIA member cruise lines will continue to offer great value and innovative vacation experiences that offer unparalleled choice and diversity of product,” said Bob Sharak, CLIA’s executive vice president, marketing and distribution.
CLIA Optimism Index Findings:
• 69 percent of CLIA agents say 2010 cruise booking volume was somewhat/much better than 2009; 82 percent indicate the same or better
• 85 percent anticipate 2011 “Wave Season” (Jan.- Mar.) booking activity to surpass 2010 increasing on average by 16 percent .
• 86 percent anticipate that 2011 cruise booking volume over the full year will increase over 2010; 66 percent expect 2011 to be “a very good year and better than 2010” or “our best year.”
• 44 percent of respondents expect growth of 11-24 percent; 21 percent expect growth to exceed 25 percent .
• Looking ahead one to three years, CLIA travel agents view the future of travel and cruise sales with high optimism.
• 93.6 percent of agents are optimistic (Extremely, Very, Somewhat) about sales of travel in general with only 6.5 percent expressing pessimism.
• 95.3 percent expressed optimism about cruise sales specifically with only 4.7% expressing pessimism.
• Value and past cruise experience, followed by price and desire to experience new ships, continue to be the stated top consumer motivators in buying cruises
• Approximately 45 percent of customers demonstrate some degree of preference and cruise brand loyalty, according to agents, with new ships, price, and new itineraries the prime motivators to switch brands .
• The top 10 cruise destinations for 2011, in terms of sales volume, according to agents will be: Caribbean/Bahamas , Alaska , Mediterranean , Europe , Hawaii , Panama Canal, European rivers , Bermuda , Canada/New England , Mexico/West Coast .
The “hot” cruise destinations for 2011, according to respondents, will be: European rivers , Mediterranean/Greek Islands/Turkey, Alaska , Caribbean/Eastern Mexico , Europe, South America, Panama Canal , Hawaii , South Pacific , China/Japan , Southeast Asia, Baltic/Scandinavia .
According to respondents, the top four categories of cruise clients, in order, are: Couples , Families, Seniors , Extended/multigenerational families .
Cruise vacations continue to rank number one in consumer interest, perceived value and ease of sale in comparison to other types of vacations (group escorted, non-escorted package tours, non-packaged resort vacations, all inclusive resort) .
Booking windows continued to expand slowly from an average 4.5 months in 2009 to 5.8 months in 2010. 2011 booking windows are anticipated to be consistent with 2010 according to respondents’ predictions (While individual lines do vary, this represents an average across all CLIA member lines and itineraries).
Eighty-seven percent of respondents have taken CLIA training and of those, 91.1 percent consider CLIA training to be important to their business, with 65.6 percent citing CLIA training as very or extremely important , while 69 percent of respondents were home-based/residential/mobile agents; 31 percent worked in retail locations .