Is the dreary economy really a drag on the cruise industry? According to a just-completed survey by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), maybe not. The online survey drew more than 1,000 responses from travel agents, who remain optimistic about cruise sales despite the lingering economic uncertainty.
"Given the exceptional environment we find ourselves in, these survey results should be taken as good news," said Terry Dale, CLIA's president and CEO. "They show every indication that consumers are responding to the value offered by cruise vacations and to the many incentives offered by CLIA member cruise lines. What is particularly significant is that travel agents are relatively optimistic not only about cruise booking volumes but about revenues in 2009 as well. This suggests that they believe the industry's pricing and marketing strategies will compensate for and even overcome the conditions that have lowered consumer confidence in other business sectors, such as retail and residential real estate."
While the results are cheery, the good amount of cruise bookings could demonstrate how many cruise lines have had to either discount rates or offer a slew of value-added bonuses.
The CLIA survey found that a majority of agents were optimistic that, overall, 2009 will be the same or better in terms of cruise bookings and revenue. The results also suggest that booking patterns may be quickly returning to the industry norm and that, although lower priced cruises represent the majority of sales, travelers also show signs of willingness to spend.
Summary of Findings
* Among respondents, 66.2 percent of agents predicted that overall cruise revenues for 2009 will be the same or better than 2008; almost 30 percent (29.6) expected somewhat better revenues this year.
* 69.2 percent of agents expected overall bookings this year to be the same or better, with 31.1 percent expecting somewhat better bookings in 2009.
* Among the top motivating factors for consumers in 2009 for booking a cruise vacation will be: special offers (32.7 percent), good pricing (29.4 percent) and good value (23 percent).
* Agents reported that the top reasons their clientele would book cruises during Wave Season 2009 would be: good value (40 percent); special pricing (28 percent) and love of cruises (11.1 percent).
* During this year's Wave Season, 54.3 percent of agents said booking activity was good, very good or excellent; 48.7 percent found total booking revenues during the same period to be good, very good or excellent.
* 56 percent of agents expected booking volume increases when compared to Wave Season 2008; 53.8 percent expected increases in revenue over the same period last year.
* For 60.9 percent of respondents, consumers were booking cruises three to seven months ahead, with a third of agents reporting a three to four month booking window. This is in contrast to a few months ago when consumers responded to the economic crisis by booking at the last minute.
* For 24.5 percent of agents, the average price of cruises sold was $1,000-$1,500 during Wave Season; for 23.2 percent of respondents the average price was $751-$999; only 7.6 percent reported average prices of cruises sold to be less than $500.
* For 60 percent of agents, the typical length of cruise sold remained seven days, which has been the industry average consistently; 21.2 percent of agents said their average cruise length sale was 4-6 days.