Week in Review: Travel Nears Full Recovery, Enticing New Cruisers

The good news is most signs point to a strong summer travel season; the bad news is travelers may continue to face busy airports and delays and cancelations by airlines.

According to a recent poll conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, more than half (53 percent) of Americans have travel planned in the next six months, with 81 percent of leisure reporting such. In addition, one-quarter (26 percent) plan to increase the amount they spend on leisure travel in the next three months.

U.S. Travel warns, however, that the record-breaking season will further strain an already-struggling air travel system. It has urged Congress to fund aviation workforce development programs, air traffic control infrastructure and technology and airport improvement grants.

But back to the positives: Global tourism is expected to top $9.5 trillion in 2023, which would equate to a 95 percent recovery when compared to 2019’s highwater mark. By the end of 2023, nearly half of the 185 countries will have either fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels or be within 95 percent of full recovery. The World Travel & Tourism Council expects 2024’s numbers to finally surpass 2019.

From one network’s perspective, land-based vacations are exploding. Dream Vacations and CruiseOne reported that land sales are up more than 100 percent compared to 2019 and 26 percent compared to last year. Although cruising is still their bread and butter, Dream Vacations and CruiseOne say they view land vacations as an avenue to increase their cruise customer base by leveraging these as an entry point to introduce customers to the value and convenience of cruising.

To meet the growing demand for land vacations, Sean Tolkin has been named vice president of land strategy and network performance. He will be responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive land strategy for the companies’ network of travel advisors.

President's Panel of cruise executives at 2023 Cruise360
Cruise line execs at Cruise360 spoke about ways to entice new-to-cruise customers.  (Photo by Mike Faust of CLIA)

As for the cruise industry as a whole, several executives spoke at Cruise Line International Association’s (CLIA) Cruise360 last week about bookings, industry growth, new ships and how to entice customers.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley believes that the way to attract new customers is through short itineraries on new ships. If people are a little anxious or unsure about cruising so they book a short cruise and have a fabulous experience, then "they're likely to repeat," he said. Bayley noted that the industry's collective deployment philosophy used to be one of "putting older hardware into the shorter product and offering mediocre destination experiences.” These, which would typically attract new cruisers, often wouldn’t lead to repeat guests. To combat this, Royal Caribbean has put newer ships into the short product market while also investing in its private Bahamian island experience.

On the flip side, David Herrera, president of Norwegian Cruise Line, says the brand has invested in Alaska and Europe, lengthening its average deployment. He also noted the “NCL Free Air,” which includes the air ticket as part of the fare (and is commissionable); this aims to reduce one of the major friction points should a cruise-goer not live near a port.

The execs also spoke about cruise pricing and, in particular, when it may start to rise given its value when compared to hotels. Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network and the moderator for the cruise line executive panel, said, “"You try getting a hotel on South Beach during Spring Break—$1,200 bucks a night for a 4.5-star property. It's incredible. I think we have to drive the demand in order to get the price."

To that, Carol Cabezas, president of Azamara, said it’s about “the math.” She explained that when advisors stack up everything that a cruise fare includes, "particularly in our sector where you have all of your beverages included—wine, beers—everything throughout the ship all day long, as well as gratuities and other amenities (and also credits, which we usually include), it is such a tremendous value."

Another way to entice cruisers is to offer travel insurance. A spring survey of more than 2,800 Allianz Partners travel insurance customers found that 33 percent who purchased a policy for their travels said they were taking a cruise. A vast majority (82 percent) of those cruise customers reported that having a travel insurance policy gave them peace of mind during their trip, and 75 percent would book a cruise again in the future after their experience. 

Even better: The survey reported that 53 percent of respondents who purchased a policy through a travel advisor said their experience with Allianz travel insurance would make them more likely to book their next trip with the same advisor.  

Fun for the Whole Family

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts_Summer of SpongeBob
SpongeBob and his friends will be a mainstay this summer at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts in Riviera Maya and Punta Cana. (Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts)

Several hotels around the world have announced family programming for the summer—many featuring famous TV, movie and literary characters.

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts in Riviera Maya and Punta Cana will play host to the “Summer of SpongeBob” from May 26 to September 5. Guests at both resorts can enjoy a range of programming, including Bikini Bottom-inspired F&B experiences, scavenger hunts, character interactions, SpongeBob viewing parties, themed crafts, the Signature Pajama Jam breakfast and Nick Live! Poolside with dance shows, live music and more. Special festivities can be planned for those celebrating birthdays.

At its properties in Australia, ChinaIndonesia, the U.S. and the U.K., The Langham will be offering special Paddington-themed offerings and rooms, designed to delight the entire family. Guests can enjoy a range of Paddington-branded gifts, including a plush, a fine bone china mug, porcelain dinner set, a children’s raincoat in pink and a children’s drawstring backpack. The themed setup in the hotel’s rooms will comprise Paddington pillowcases, bed runners, cushion covers, tepee tents, children’s bathrobes and slippers.

In Italy, Hilton Lake Como has unveiled a new interactive culinary offering in partnership with “dinner theater” Le Petit Chef. Between courses, the table is transformed into a screen, whereupon the little chef entertains with various performances and recordings, because his attempts to prepare culinary masterpieces almost always end in disaster; luckily, the kitchen crew of Hilton Lake Como always helps the virtual star out.

In Vietnam, Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa has announced the launch of a series of enhancements, including refreshed accommodation, social and culinary venues, children’s activities and more. Camp Hyatt has been expanded and relaunched with four distinct indoor and outdoor play zones. This immersive children’s club offers a range of activities, including toddler play pits, ball pools, canopy swings, climbing nets, a water obstacle course, and more.

Please Vote!

Travel Agent’s sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor has opened voting for its annual “Awards of Excellence.” These are our reader’s choice awards where suppliers and top executives are honored for their superb performances throughout the year. Winners will be announced at ULTRA Summit, held at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, June 20-22, 2023.

Related Stories

Contiki Names Aisha Shaibu-Lenoir LGBTQIA+ Ambassador for 2023

Emerald Floats Out Its Newest Luxury Yacht, Emerald Sakara

Rocky Mountaineer Begins 2023 Season With Culinary Updates

Vegas’ Circa Resort & Casino Launches New Bachelorette Packages