For the cruise industry, 2009—thankfully—is over with, done, sayonara, don't let the door hit you on the way out! It's time to look to rosier pastures, to wit, 2010. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) held an industry briefing on Wednesday in New York, expressing upbeatness about the coming year and the role the cruise industry will have.
For 2010, CLIA estimates 14.3 million passengers will cruise, representing a 6.4 percent increase year over year. Terry Dale, CEO of CLIA, says agents are optimistic over 2010. He noted that CLIA is now represented by 16,000 agency/agent members. CLIA polled many of them about 2010. Some of the findings: 75 percent say they will have an increase in cruise sales; 83 percent stated an increase in booking volumes; 11 percent predict this will be their best year ever for cruise sales; 53 percent of agents expect to book first-time cruisers; and a majority say cruising is number one for perceived value. Hot destinations for 2010 will again be the Caribbean and Mediterranean, while agents are seeing a "big uptick" in river cruise demand.
As always, Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA and chairman of CLIA's marketing committee, was upbeat. "In every adversity," he said, "there is a seed of opportunity." He noted the 14 new ships that came online in 2009 representing $4.7 billion in investment. "We keep reinvesting," he said. "New supply drives the future." Sasso also alluded to his five Vs for success: volume, value, variety, versatility (the ability to move ships where the going is good) and voice. In all, the industry’s story is one of impressive growth: 118 new ships since 2000 and, since 1980, average annual growth in passengers of 7.4 percent, despite numerous economic downturns and other obstacles.
It also appears pricing could improve as the booking window lengthens. Dale said that the booking window in 2009 was "the shortest ever." They are now seeing slight improvement to around five months.
While challenges stil lie ahead (regulatory issues, eco concers, fuel expenses, psychological barriers), it's clear the indsutry is not letting up. Looking forward, CLIA member lines have 26 new ships on order between 2010 and 2012—23 ocean-going vessels and three river boats. This represents a net increase in capacity of 18 percent, or 53,971 beds.