Wave Season is in full swing and Millennial travelers loom large as a driving force for cruise sales. Here is a look at Gen Y as a luxury target, along with some insights into the LGBTQ segment and a new booking platform.
Millennials are seeking out luxury cruises at a record pace, according to CLIA’s just-released 2018 Cruise Travel Report. This year, key highlights of the study found almost all income brackets are cruising. A third (33 percent) of cruisers surveyed have a household income less than $80K, while 50 percent have a household income of at least $100K or more. The report also shows a new generation of luxury travelers has emerged. Millennials are seeking out luxury cruises at a record pace, CLIA said, with almost a quarter surveyed (24 percent) having sailed on a luxury cruise line within the past three years.
“The study confirms, cruise travel continues to break down income and generational barriers proving that today there is a cruise for every travel preference, style and budget,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA, in a written release.
Key highlights include:
- Millennials Raise the Sails: The percent of Millennials who “definitely will” book a cruise for their next trip increased from 63 percent last year to 70 percent this year.
- Friendship: Last year marked the Year of FriendSHIP for cruisers who enjoy traveling in groups. In fact, travelers who take a cruise are 40 percent more likely to travel with friends, partners/companions or children than land-based peers. In 2017, more travelers took vacations to spend time with family than in 2016.
- Cruising Across Incomes: Income plays little role when choosing cruising as the better of the two vacation options — 66 percent of people making less than $100K name cruises as a preference over land-based options, as did 70 percent of those making more than $200K.
- High Satisfaction = Loyal Cruisers: Cruisers are loyal to cruising. More than half (58 percent) believe a cruise is the best type of vacation, a perception that remains consistent. They find high satisfaction in river cruises (81 percent) and ocean cruises (73 percent), followed by land-based hotels and resorts (62 percent). Nine out of 10 say they “probably or definitely will” cruise again.
- Kids Are Just the Hook: On average, about 41 percent of cruisers say they are interested in childcare services, including babysitting, and programs for children and teens. But only 13 percent are reporting that they use these services. In contrast, only 32 percent say they want onboard entertainment while more than twice that many (70 percent) attend once onboard.
- Destination Snacking: Cruisers see cruising as a great way to sample different destinations and cities for future vacations. Millennials are inherent samplers and love to try new things before committing. They are increasingly likely to return to destinations visited first via a cruise. Indeed, all ages (except Gen X) show a greater likelihood of returning to a destination visited on a cruise than reported last year.
- Agents Propel Cruisers: Travel agents are the most likely influencers of vacation-planning and decision-making for cruisers, who are twice as likely (70 percent) to use a travel agent when booking a vacation than non-cruisers (37 percent).
- Top 10 Cruise States: A large percentage of cruisers hail from Florida (17 percent), but California (11 percent), Texas (9 percent) and New York (6 percent) are also big players in the marketplace. To a lesser extent, so are Georgia (4 percent) and North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois (all 3 percent).
LGBTQ Cruise Customers
According to Community Marketing Insights’ 22nd Annual LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality Survey, published in November 2017, the overwhelming majority (81 percent) of LGBTQ Millennials opted for a “mainstream” sailing rather than a special full-ship charter or traveling as a group on a mainstream cruise. On the other hand, only 7 percent of them report having taken at least one cruise in the past 12 months, vs. 13 percent and 19 percent for LGBTQ Gen Xers and Boomers, respectively.
New Booking Platform
JetBlue, which, especially in the past year, has targeted and catered to Millennial flyers, is expanding into cruise travel. Dwain Wall’s online travel agency, Cruising Store, has partnered with the airline on an artificial intelligence-powered cruise booking platform that company officials tell Travel Agent uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify cruise vacations that meet a customer’s budget, destination preferences and other activities.
The new platform seems to be a contrasting approach to other recent forays into AI-powered bookings. At the most recent Cruise Planners convention in October, the travel agency announced a new partnership with Amazon’s Alexa AI to launch two new “Alexa skills” on the platform. One of the skills connects customers with a Cruise Planners travel agent through the Echo Dot smart speaker and other Alexa-powered devices. The agent is then in charge of managing the customer’s booking. The other skill, which is exclusively for agents, acts as a “virtual assistant” to help travel agents manage their business using AI.