Nearly 500 travel advisors across the U.S. recently took a survey by Scenic Group, parent company of Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, Emerald Cruises, Scenic Eclipse and Mayflower Cruises & Tours.
Among the key findings: More than 60 percent of travel advisors say river cruises now comprise between 25 percent and 50 percent of their cruise bookings. In addition, 75 percent of the advisors polled say their small-ship cruise bookings (for ships carrying 250 passengers or less) have grown to approximately 25 percent of their cruise business.
Advisors also said that 34 percent of their clients wish to convert cancelled or suspended vacation bookings to a small-ship cruise; this choice is followed by independent travel at 30 percent.
Destination is Important, But...
Leading the way for the rest of 2020? Clients are most focused on cruises and tours in North America, the Scenic survey revealed, while in 2021, clients are looking to northern Europe and the Arctic.
Survey results also showed that it's more than the destination that's important to clients during this pandemic era: Advisors said that flexibility with booking terms, refundable deposits, refunds for cancellations and final payment dates closer to departure are as important to clients as the cruise destinations and lines offering all-inclusive fares.
Top of mind for all travelers is safety concerns that related to COVID-19. The top three responses in order of those concerns:
- Needing to know the ship’s response protocols for any onboard outbreak
- Knowing proactive safety measures the cruise line is taking to prevent outbreaks
- How the onboard experience will change including food service
Also, advisors said their clients are looking for reassurance when it comes to flexibility in booking and when it will be safe to cruise again.
Advisor Travel Marketing Support
Scenic said it supports the marketing efforts of travel advisors, important during "down markets," and so it asked travel advisors what types of marketing/communications were proving most effective this summer. Advisors cited webinars, any and all types of communication assistance, and a steady flow of emails about supplier news and deals as top "effective" tools.
Interesting, Scenic's press release said, "Social media was dead last as a form of marketing communications for travel advisors."