Travel Guard recently polled travel agents to see how they think the Costa Concordia disaster will affect cruising, and to get their predictions for this year’s peak cruise-selling Wave Season.
Given the severity of the recent Costa Concordia incident, Travel Guard said those within the travel industry are closely watching how it could affect cruise bookings, especially with Wave Season underway. Overall, 46 percent of agents polled believe the disaster will not drastically affect the number of cruise bookings in 2012, while just seven percent feel that fewer people will cruise as a result.
Nearly half (47 percent) of agents polled also said they believe avid cruisers will continue to cruise, but those who have not cruised will strongly consider other types of vacations.
In addition, 37 percent of those polled believe cruisers will be more apt to purchase travel insurance this year as a result of the incident. However, an overwhelming 88 percent of agents polled feel that an unforeseen illness that could affect travel plans is the top reason clients should purchase insurance for a cruise.
Beyond the situation with Costa Concordia, the agents were asked their views on Wave Season. With many cruise lines now offering attractive deals year-round, only 12 percent of those polled by Travel Guard felt that Wave Season is still the strongest time of the year for cruise bookings.
In fact, 43 percent of those polled reported that the majority of their clients are no longer waiting until wave season to book a cruise. The remainder (45 percent) of agents polled believe an increasing number of clients are booking throughout the year.
Trends? Travel Guard said 50 percent of its respondents said river cruising will be the biggest trend of 2012. Other cruising trends that agents feel will be significant this year include the continued increase in onboard fees (21 percent), a younger demographic booking cruises (13 percent) and themed cruises (9 percent).
But while river cruises are highly popular, 53 percent of agents polled still believe oceangoing mega-ships will continue to attract travelers new to cruising. Additionally, 20 percent of agents polled believe the lack of mega-ships debuting this year will have minimal affect on bookings.
As for the hottest destinations to book, Travel Guard's survey found that cruisers’ destination of choice is still overwhelmingly the Caribbean, according to 53 percent of agents polled. Europe placed second at at 25 percent, followed by Alaska (15 percent) and the South Pacific (2 percent).
Price-wise, many cruise lines have significantly increased onboard fees this season and 34 percent of agents polled predicting cruisers will spend more time trying to find the best deal to mitigate the increases.
In addition, 23 percent of agents polled believe cruisers will think twice before booking onboard activities and dining at alternative restaurants, while 28 percent believe cruisers will opt to book with lines that have not raised onboard fees. Only 15 percent of agents polled believe this trend will not affect purchase decisions.