Like many organizations, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is taking stock of what's in store for travel in 2016. The network of home-based travel professionals reports it is already seeing double digit growth for 2016 sales, and it has picked its top 10 travel plans for 2016:
- More Inventory: There are more cruise ships than ever before on the rivers and oceans, so the competition is heating up. Each cruise line is responding differently from exploring exotic itineraries to offering more value for clients and from building huge mega ships to introducing new, intimate river cruise ships—there truly is something for everyone. Overall, cruise lines are working hard to market to new-to-cruise travelers to experience their products and new ships are being built and announced often—so there will be even more cruise products to experience.
- Selling Early: Cruise lines are filling ships further out. From the business perspective, this means they are not doing deep discounts for last-minute cruises, but rather incentivizing travelers to book ahead with richer deals for a longer lead time.
- Travel Agents Offer Best Value: Since there are so many cruise ship products with each one having its own personality, it’s best to work with a travel agent who knows what products are available and can help pair a traveler with the best cruise ship to meet their needs. Also, a travel agent has access to the best deals and value possible, doesn’t cost the client any additional money and is a constant client advocate throughout the booking and travel process—it’s a true win/win.
- Younger Demographics are Traveling: Millennials are traveling more and more and travel and cruise companies are taking notice. For example, river cruise lines are expanding to seasonally focus on families/multi-generational guests with triple occupancy cabins. One example of this is how AmaWaterways partnered with Disney to attract families and is marketing to a broader and younger range of travelers.
- Merging Technology with Travel: Travel is technology—from using mobile travel apps to wristband room key access and travelers demanding advanced Wi-Fi connections to robotic bartenders and even using live GoPro video content to help promote travel to consumers; technology and travel are forever fused.
- Luxury Expansions: With the evolution of Crystal Cruises’ luxury portfolio expanding into the luxury river cruise market, yachting, and air market, high-end travelers will expect more well-rounded inclusions from their vacations.
- Additional Offerings: Today, there are more all-inclusive sailings, more experiences and cultural excursions for clients. Finding the right adventure or excursion is the best way to create travel memories.
- Impact of Cuba: Travel to Cuba is being explored and it comes with international impacts. Many American travelers are interested in seeing it. Some want to go before it gets too “Americanized” while others are waiting until it has more offerings in line with American tourists.
- Social Impact Travel: More and more travelers are looking for a culturally immersive experience—from helping a local charity to meeting local artisans and children—travelers are looking to give back in a big way. Brands such as Fathom are offering an opportunity for travelers to visit a destination and give back.
- Themed Travel: There are more themed trips and cruises such as wine makers tours, beer cruises, Christmas markets, golf themed trips, music focused vacations, and more than ever before giving travel agents the opportunity to create their own groups and themed events.
“Travel is back in a big way, and 2016 is already off to a strong start in the travel industry—and I am glad travel agents are playing a huge role in that growth,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners. “Also, consumers are booking further out. We are already seeing more bookings for 2016 and into the next few years.”