Over 50 percent of travel agents report they are already selling more vacations at sea than in 2011 and 64 percent expect cruise booking volume over the course of 2012 to increase over last year, according to a new survey of members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Halfway through the year, travel agents are optimistic about selling cruises in 2012, CLIA reports.
The online survey of over 300 CLIA-member agents, conducted in early July, measured several major aspects of the cruise industry from the agent perspective, including consumer confidence and attitudes toward cruising, popular cruise destinations, passenger demographics, and booking patterns.
“As the primary distribution channel for cruises, our member agents have an extremely important perspective and represent a valuable barometer of the attitudes and opinions that shape and drive the industry’s success,” said Christine Duffy, CLIA’s president and CEO.
“In this survey, agents express strong optimism for cruise sales going forward and reaffirm that the industry’s core reason for success is its continuing ability to provide outstanding choice and value for cruise vacations all over the world. In terms of consumer interest, according to our agent partners, cruising, once again, ranks number one compared to other types of vacations,” Duffy said.
Key findings cited by CLIA's mid-2012 agent survey include:
• While almost 24 percent of agents expect an increase of 10 percent or less in 2012 bookings, 25.4 percent anticipate increases of 11-15 percent and 14.8 percent look forward to even more significant growth in cruise sales of more than 25 percent
• At mid-year, 24.7 percent of agents report cruise sales (in number of cruises sold) similar to 2011, but 51.9 percent of agents report that they are doing better than last year
• One factor in agents’ optimism points to consumer confidence; 57.8 percent of agents responding to the survey said that consumer confidence is getting stronger or is much more positive, with consumers expressing stronger intentions to travel
• Agents also cited the following cruise categories as representing the strongest sales potential, in order: river cruises, contemporary cruises, shorter cruises, premium cruises, and luxury cruises
• Top cruise destinations that agents describe as “hot” (new or increased demand and consumer interest) for 2013 include, in order: the Caribbean, Alaska, Mediterranean, Hawaii, Europe/Scandinavia, Australia/New Zealand, trans-Panama Canal, Asia, Bahamas, Mexico, transatlantic, and the Middle East
• According to agents, the elements of cruising that generate the most excitement among their clients include: new itineraries and destinations, new ships, longer stays in ports, family and children’s programs, innovative shore excursions, domestic ports of embarkation, smaller/specialized ships, weddings/honeymoons/anniversaries at sea, new choices in dining and entertainment, and theme cruises
• Passenger markets that represent the strongest growth categories include, in order: first time cruisers, families, couples without children, seniors, multigenerational families, single travelers, younger adults (21-39), wedding/honeymoon and social or corporate groups
• Top current or future trends in cruising, according to agents, include: multigenerational groups and families; cruise ships perceived as the vacation destination; off-the-beaten track itineraries; short cruises; increased interest in cultural activities; international travel; growth in small ship cruising; increased interest in theme cruises; popularity of longer cruises; increased spending on vacations, and destination weddings and honeymoons
• The primary reasons that consumers will be motivated to book a cruise in 2012 and beyond, according to agents, include, in order: good value offered by the cruise lines; love of cruising; price; get away with friends; try out new ships; family reunions; shorter cruises, and honeymoons/weddings/anniversaries
• Average booking lead time, by category of cruise, according to agents: contemporary cruises – 4.13 months; premium cruises – 4.82 months; luxury cruises – 5.08 months; destination cruises – 4.65 months.