Newly Published Study Shows Wave Season Unkind to Travel Agents

Flattish Caribbean pricing led to a weak first two months of wave season for travel agents according to a Bank of America travel agent survey. "Expectations of a strong wave season were short lived," wrote Michael Savner, a BofA analyst. Both pricing and Caribbean demand fell steeply, Savner wrote, with February marking the lowest pricing level since BofA began the cruising survey last August. Caribbean demand also fell to its lowest level since September of last year.

The following is a sampling of unattributed February agent reactions culled by BofA:

"I do not think that the general public knows that the passport rule for cruise passengers has been extended to Jan. 2008. I think that is what is holding people back. They think they need a passport."

"Wave season is not as busy as past years. We have experienced a better fourth quarter 2006, than first quarter 2007 so far."

"More direct and Internet bookings by consumers."

"Overcapacity in Caribbean market. I believe some will occur in Europe."

There was some good news. BofA's cruise booking index increased slightly in February compared to January. "The modest increase likely reflects increasing promotions and not necessarily a secular step-up in demand," Savner wrote. Carnival Cruise Lines reported a 28 percent jump in bookings during a six-week stretch from February through mid-March, which was largely driven by a one-day sales event.

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